Last Saturday morning, as I was headed to Austin Comic Con, I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop. No, I wasn’t speeding or driving recklessly. I was barely a mile from my home. And driving quite nicely, thank you.
The reason for the stop? My inspection decal was past due. In Texas, all vehicles must be inspected annually to demonstrate their road-worthiness. According to the state of Texas, my vehicle was supposed to be inspected by the first of October.
It’s November. It’s past due.
The motorcycle cop was Humpty Dumpty with a trite-but-stylish motorcycle cop mustache. He was incredibly warm, a great roadside manner. Of course, that’s neither here nor there.
After reviewing my documents and attending to some chit chat, the cop prepared my paperwork. He issued me a ticket. My mind lurched for the benefit (any benefits here?!) this moment could provide. That’s when I thought of The Tipping Point.
I listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point a couple of years back. Found it to be chalk full of provocative ideas. Most folks, in the moment where they’ve just been issued a citation, would be burning with indignance over the whole thing. Instead, I had a different thought. A daily epiphany, as it were.
Instead of feeling angry and indignant, I thought about the Broken Window policy. (Was it a policy? Or a theory? A hypothesis? Or what? I couldn’t remember exactly) I recalled this notion from Gladwell’s book that if you were to fix the busted windows in a crime-riddled part of the city, then crime in that area would diminish.
Here I was, ticketed for an expired vehicle inspection, and I was thinking that if I were to take care of the small stuff, then maybe I would enjoy a myriad of benefits. Now, I don’t have a crime problem (ticket be damned!), but perhaps if I were to get my vehicle inspected and take care of the other seemingly minor maintenance issues in my life, then I’d enjoy some other, greater unintended benefits.
When I went back to peek at Gladwell’s take on broken windows, I was struck by this concept: If disorder invites more disorder, then perhaps order invites more order.