Behaving Badly in a World of Viral Video

I had an interesting experience last week at the Costco gas pump near my house.  Costco crews were doing some digging with heavy machinery.  Dust was flying, maybe some little pebbles too.  They closed off some pumps to try to keep cars away the best they could.  This meant longer lines, longer than usual waits to fill-up at 9:30 in the morning.  I could see if you are in a hurry this could be a cause of stress. Fortunately for me, I was headed to shop at Costco next and it wasn’t open for another 20 minutes.  So I sat back in my seat and pulled out my blackberry. As I was scrolling through the Twitter feed, a guy walked up to my car window and said “Why don’t you pull up to the front pump?”.  I nicely explained that the pump had been closed since I got in line because of the work crews.  He was polite. I didn’t really think much of it. I even double checked with the work crews by waving and asking if I could move ahead yet. A minute or so later,  I got the go-ahead.

So I start filling up my tank and I hear this shouting at the pump next to me.   It was the guy who had asked me to move up to the pump closer to the workers.  Now he was in the front spot in the next lane filling up his white Mercedes. And guess what? His Benz, his baby was getting dirty and maybe even slightly dented by what was flying from the heavy machinery. He was pissed.  He went off about how he is paying 4 dollars a gallon for gas, and how dare the crews get so close to his car.   What he was saying made sense. It’s how he said it.   And what is interesting, is when you first hear someone yell like this, you wonder if they’re friends or if it might be a joke.  And then pretty soon you realize, no one is laughing.  By the time I grabbed my flip cam, most of the action was over.  You can check out the last few seconds as the situation calmed down.

As I was holding and pointing the flipcam at the yeller, thoughts started to fly through my head. Should I be doing this? Is he going to come after me? Then I thought about how I would respond if he got upset.   Maybe we should all try to treat people as if anyone could pull out a camera and record us at any moment.  Think back to times you may have lost your cool in public.  I know I have.  What if someone had you on video? In the world we live in now, anyone with a smart phone can take pretty decent quality video and upload it to the internet.   Just one public outburst in the wrong place at the wrong time, and your temper tantrum is viral.   Think about places and situations where you have seen people come unglued, children’s sporting events? checkout lines? the office? What if we started a campaign urging smart phone carriers around the globe to record and upload bad behavior? Would it make a difference in how people conduct themselves?

And a final note about the Costco Gas Pump guy..  Just when I thought the story was over, I drove over to Costco and was hanging out in the parking lot waiting for the store to open and guess who was hanging out with me. The man in the Mercedes. The man in a hurry.