The complicated nature of shortcuts

I live up in the Hollywood HIlls, and my office is down in Toluca Lake (just outside of Burbank).  For the first year I drove down the major roads (Laurel Canyon to Riverside).  It took about 20 minutes. Last year, a neighbor told me about a neighborhood shortcut that would save me time and gas. 

The new and shorter route cut through three neighborhoods, using narrow winding streets to go directly down the hill to Studio City.  Sure enough, my drive went from 20 to about 14 minutes — and cut down the number of traffic lights by 75%.  Given the windy nature of the shortcut, it could be a little scary as there’s hardly enough room for the residents to park their cars on the street.  If you drive with one foot on the brake and a hand on the horn, you won’t get hit by a car coming around the corner.  

Over time, hundreds of other locals heard about this shortcut.  Soon, signs started to go up in the neighborhood as residents got their fill of honking, squealing tires and constant traffic through their previously quiet neighborhood.  Here’s a sign that went up a few months ago: 
Shortcuts photo

When I saw that sign, it hit me like a ton of bricks: My shortcut is another person’s inconvenience.  If you buy a home on a major street, you know you have traffic to live with. When you buy a house in a quiet neighborhood, you never expect it to be full of cars at all hours.  When I cut through the neighborhood, I externalized my gas and time costs to unsuspecting neighbors.  I won a very small media business, yet just getting to work is now a violation of social responsibility.  Now, I’m back to taking the long way to work.  It’s the more responsible thing to do. 

Really: What’s the difference between a big business dumping its trash into a local stream and a small business owner cutting through a quiet neighborhood?  Only the scale of the damage.  We all have to commit ourselves to conducting business in a way that doesn’t create harm or inconvenience to others. The essence of responsibility is clear: You live in an interdependent world, where all of us are part of the greater community.  We share the commons, and it is up to us to always consider the impact of every business process — even getting to work!