Where do you get your information?

Driving up the mountain to Big Bear last weekend offered quite an insight into how we choose which information we will use to influence our behavior. As you approach the San Bernadino National Park, there is a sign at the base of the Mountain, it reads –

4×4 Snow tires OK
Carry Snow chains

Just from reading this, what is your take on the sign’s intention? How do you think the creator of the sign wants you to behave?

At approx. 2000 ft up the mountain we begin to witness a slight frosting of trees the air beginning to cool and the first of our drivers begin to pull over into turnouts to put on their snow chains. Now when I say the first I actually mean ‘many, many’ drivers, in all sorts of shapes and sizes of cars have pulled over to put snow chains on. From the pattern of the cars you can see how that one car’s occupants felt that the sign was an instruction and others filed in behind it. There is however NO evidence of snow on the ground.

The sign repeats again a little way on and at around 3000ft the temperature is noticeably chilly and I would much rather the dog bring her head back inside of the car instead of enjoying the thrilling rush of 30 miles an hour in her ears. The road is now beginning to turn a shade of greyish white as we turn the frost, that is now beginning to settle on the rocks and road, back into dirt. And it is here that a second batch of people begin to pull over; jerking out of the road and into a turnout as if there were an emergency to put on their snow chains. Between the larger turnouts a few other travelers seem to believe that the need for snow chains is so great that they are prepared to block the road while they haul them out and we are now reduced to driving at 10 miles an hour. My mind now casts back to those folks who were putting on chains at the bottom on the mountain and how slowly they will be ka-thudding up the mountain in their snow chains, only to get to this jam some while later and still no snow.

In our car we make positive cooing noises at each other, acknowledging that it is still early in the day, our spirits are up as it is a beautiful outside, we are still snow chain free and therefore enjoying a smooth drive as we watch others around us rattling, teeth grindingly, up the mountain on the uncompromising asphalt.

We pass another sign, the writing is the same, it hasn’t changed, and neither has the road condition.

4×4 Snow tires OK
Carry Snow chains

By 4000ft the road is becoming a little slushy, even a little bumpy in parts as we drive over sections of bobbly ice, strewn around by the plow vehicle we see driving back down the mountain in the oncoming lane, and right at this point many of the drivers forget how to operate their vehicles and begin to brake hard and wiggle across the passing lane. But we are moving, some of us more smoothly that others.

Just after this is ‘THE TURNOUT’, the one that I have to admit does rather imply ‘last chance stop’, here there are a bevvy of industrious souls in high visibility gear charging ‘$40 or more’ (we are yet to work out what the ‘more’ is) to put your snow chains on for you. Now this turnout is FULL, again there are cars of all shapes and sizes but mainly SUV’s, and some families are taking advantage of what is enterprisingly understood as the ‘last chance’ offer of snow chain assistance.

Here everyone is searching in the back of their cars for their chains, grappling under their cars, poking at their wheels, untangling chains, looking very productive and serious but if any of them actually felt the weather, looked at the road, the cars driving back down the moutain or at the hill ahead they would have seen very little reason for the chains that they were so obsessed with. To illustrate this point further, many of these earnest folks were wearing T-shirts! Yet the high visibility mountain gear of the road side entrepreneurs seemed to mesmerize these drivers into believing we were in fact in extreme weather conditions.

Between this point and the next 500ft we pass a few people who feel holding up hundreds of weekend trippers so they can put on snowchains in a traffic lane is a great idea….they however are spending more time directing traffic around their vehicles than doing the job they stopped to do.

We continue to drive slowly… around us are some vehicles with chains who must have arrived on the mountain VERY early and a convoy of SUV’s that like us, are sans chains. At around 5500ft things pretty much come to a halt, and the dog pulls her head back into the car, very unamused that there is no further rush of satisfaction to be had and we slowly approach a check point; toward the the enforcer of –

4×4 Snow tires OK
Carry Snow chains

And who do you think he lets through? Yes true to word he lets through everyone in a 4×4 vehicle with snow tires and everyone CARRYING chains. And I have to believe that he gives a slight smile to the wobbly chained up vehicles he lets through on what is barely slushy road.

Beyond the check point the road is clear, mainly because the people WITH chains need to pull over to let us through, the convoy of 4×4 vehicles now gathering speed, all determined to make it up that last 2000ft to those chosen Big Bear lake destinations for a warming cup of coffee, and again my mind casts back to 4000ft, 3000ft, 2000ft, and 1000ft and all those vehicles, families and friends who are no doubt now in a major jam, puffed out, stressed out and having their insides rattled out, when all they needed to do was look around.

The information on the sign was just stating the facts of what was required for safe travel. At no point was anyone told to PUT THOSE CHAINS ON NOW! If the road had been bad there would have been plenty of further information ensuring that would occur. Instead these drivers and passengers chose to ‘interpret’ the sign without taking in information from any other source. They didn’t look to see that the possibly more experienced visitors to the mountain were not pulling over, they didn’t look at the condition of the cars traveling back from where they were headed, and they didn’t take note of their physical environment to see what actually might be needed.

All this got me wondering about where we might be taking our everyday information from. What signs are you reading and what other information might be useful to you prior to making a decision and taking action? Is there someone who has been there? Is there someone more experienced? Is there timely and relevant information on what is actually needed?

Look around you, look at all your sources of information, not just the one staring you in the face; look, listen and feel. You may find that there is a much smoother ride to be had.


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A Red Barn Coaching initiative www.redbarncoaching.com

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