On the morning of Monday, January 28, snowfall far exceeded prediction, turning the Denver-Boulder Turnpike into a twenty-seven-mile-long laboratory in social psychology.
In more conventional laboratories, experimentation requires researchers to declare the risks that human subjects may face, to secure the signed permission of those participants, and to set forward the terms of confidentiality. Since that protocol was not in effect on that wintry morning, I am under no constraints in reporting my findings.
Determined to meet a treasured friend for lunch, I had settled in to wait for a bus. When the bus finally arrived, it turned out to be three hours late.
In other words, the social psychology experiment was off and running.
Many of the passengers who boarded with me had been waiting out in the cold a lot longer than I had. But all greeted the bus driver with appreciation for his persistence.
And, unknown to any of us, just two or three stops away, one of the goofiest people in the Denver Metro Area was awaiting our arrival.
She did not, for a moment, try to conceal her goofiness. As she got on the bus, she said to the driver, “How long will it take you to get to Denver?”
Those of us seated near the front of the bus all knew that the driver had had a terrible morning, spending most of his westward journey trapped in motionless traffic. With this empathetic knowledge in play in our minds, this woman’s question initially seemed intended to invite our hilarity and merriment.
The driver patiently told his interrogator that he would do his best to get us to Denver, but there was no way he could know what we would face in the way of continued snowfall, black ice, or accidents.