I was in the car today and noticed the driver in front of me one-handing the steering wheel while the other arm dangled casually out the window. Clearly this guy was one cool dude.
My immediate reaction, though, was: “That’s dangerous and stupid – he’ll get his arm knocked off!”
The reason is that that’s what my parents always told me. And understandably so: long drives on the freeway with two hungry and impatient kids are bad enough without worrying about them sticking their arms out of the window and injuring themselves. But then for my whole life this has been stored in my brain as “dangerous” without really questioning how dangerous it is, so that now, having never carefully considered the issue, I have the immediate reaction that the driver in front of me is being brash and reckless.
And now that I do actually think about it, I think that he probably had things under control. Let him enjoy the cool breeze through his abundant arm hair on a hot day! Heck, we were even stopped at a traffic light at the time, so the danger was probably pretty negligible.
I guess what’s interesting to me about this is that what we learn as children goes straight into our brains as true, without any filtration or qualification. And even 20 years later, here was that thing I learned as a kid, popping back up and hijacking my perception of reality. Of course, part of growing up is questioning our inherited world-view, but there are always blind spots, many of which, I suspect, are of more consequence than whether it’s safe to dangle and drive.