44. The driving test
Driving in London is a wonderful environment for social interaction studies.
Most London drivers, when trying to join a busy line of traffic from a parallel parked position will edge their out until they force the next car to stop and allow them through. Most of this is without eye contact. This can usually take ages.
I was in this situation in my friend’s car, and instead of edging her way out she started waving, the driver of the nearest car couldn’t help but see her, and she was starring straight at him, with a big smile on her face.
He naturally smiled back. My friend then pointed into the line of traffic, very politely and he smiled and nodded – as if to say, “Well, seeing as you asked so nicely…”
The whole thing was pretty instant.
So Pete and I did some testing of this…
10 times we joined busy flows of traffic from a parked position. We looked in the direction but not directly at the driver, and we edged our way out – on average this took 15.2 seconds for us to turn in to the line of traffic.
We then did this another 10 times on the same roads with smiles on our faces, small waves and looking directly at the driver, on average this took 4.3 seconds for us to turn in the line of traffic.
I had a theory that if we could get their attention quicker, and then smiling and waving then we could reduce the times even more. So we wore brightly coloured hats. Unfortunately, the average time actually shot up so much that we just edged our way out… I guess we probably looked a bit scary.
By Liz Akers