Why do some people think that rules and regulations don’t apply to them?

In May this year, we got some unusually hot weather in the South of Norway. Temperatures rose over 30 degrees Celsius, which is not only uncommon for May; it’s not even temperatures we associate with an ordinary Norwegian summer. The hot weather, combined with almost no rain, naturally had some consequences. People migrated en masse to the nearest beach, the use of disposable grills skyrocketed, the forest fire hazard quickly rose to bright red, and the water levels in local drinking water reservoirs sank like a stone.

One of the popular locations to cool down in the Norwegian capital Oslo when it’s hot, is Sørenga. Most people go there by bike or foot, and the shortest way is by crossing a floating bridge. On a good day, thirty thousand people use the bridge to get to and from Sørenga. In May, however, the bridge started to show serious signs of decay, and Five-O temporary closed the bridge with police tape to prevent more people to cross it in case the bridge should collapse into the water. A lot of people didn’t give a flying fuck, though, ignored the police tape, and continued to cross the bridge.

When you’re outside for a while, you get hungry. And the best meals are the ones your prepare outside yourself, don’t you think? Norwegians have a black belt in disposable picnic grills. As soon as the temperatures rise above freezing, you’ll find a Norwegian with a disposable grill in a park somewhere. A great invention, except they produce a lot of garbage, are hell to handle for the garbage collectors, and hard to dispose of correctly. So they aren’t really a great invention. They suck. Communal grills in the park would have been a much better idea, but the availability of those is sparse. Being grills, the disposable ones get very, very hot. Combined with the hot, dry weather, the grills were a major fire hazard, and in many areas, the use of disposable grills were prohibited. A lot of people didn’t give a flying fuck, though, ignored the ban, and fired up their grills anyway.

People crossing the closed bridge to Sørenga. Photo by Charlotte Sverdrup.

But Wait, There’s More!

It didn’t stop there, though.

The unusually hot weather meant that lawns across the South of Norway quickly started to go from green to brown. Homeowners everywhere panicked1, and started to water their lawns in an attempt to keep them green. The inevitable result of this was that the drinking water reservoirs drained a lot quicker than they filled up. With the risk of running out of drinking water, watering prohibition came into effect in many areas. A lot of people didn’t give a flying fuck, though, ignored the ban, and watered their precious lawns anyway.

I’d like to end this torrent of great examples of people being idiots with something that is not related to hot weather, drought, and fire hazards. It’s a very everyday thing: Parking a car. It’s a pretty basic affair. Place your vehicle in the designated parking zone, and inside a parking space in said zone. The parking zone is usually marked by a sign post, while the parking space is commonly marked by white or yellow stripes painted on the tarmac. Easy as pie, still some people just don’t give a flying fuck, and park wherever they want.

Half the car is on a handicap spot he’s not allowed to park on, while the other half is parked in a no parking zone. The emergency? Had to drop off a package at the post office. Being an idiot is not a handicap.

Above the Law!

I’m usually a rather calm fella. But people putting themselves above rules and regulations piss me off. Of course I’m not tough enough to tell people to pull themselves together to their faces. I avoid any conflict like the damn plague. The picture of the parked car you see above is a good example. I took that picture earlier this week. Instead of telling the driver that he has parked like an idiot, I wrote this rambling post. And he’ll continue to park like that. If people had told him off, maybe he’d at least tried to park where he should.

So why do some people put themselves above the law? NRK wrote a nice article on the subject (in Norwegian) in late May. Associate Professor Gunnar Thommesen think the reason might be group psychology, and he is supported by social anthropologist Tom Bratrud. When a lot of people are breaking or bending the rules, it’s not very enticing to be the one following them.

So when people ripped off the police tape, and crossed the bridge to Sørenga, you don’t want to be the one taking the 25 minutes detour instead, right? When people fire up their grills despite risking burning the city to the ground, you don’t want to be the one eating raw meat, right? And, finally, when all your neighbors water their lavish, green lawns, you don’t want to be stuck with a dead, brown one, right?

Right.

We love a good barbecue. Screw the fire brigade, what do they know about fire hazards anyway!?

Is it Really That Hard?

But in most cases, there is (usually) a good reason that rules and regulations exist. In the cases I mention above, the reasons were risk of drowning, critical fire hazard, and access to drinking water. All good reasons for the regulations to exists, if I ever saw some. And more the good reasons to actually follow them.

Don’t be a sheep. Grow a backbone. Even if the rest of the herd jumps off a cliff, resist the urge to jump with them. Go someplace else than Sørenga to cool down, bring something else than barbecue-food to the park, and just don’t water your damn lawn.

Footnotes

  1. While we’re on the subject of lawns: I’d highly recommend that you listen to the Freakconomics episode “How Stupid Is Our Obsession With Lawns?“.