I can never change lanes without hearing the dreaded brrrp, brrrp of the lane dividers. When I was growing up, we called them “turtles.”
Someone told me — this might be apocryphal — that the inventor gets a royalty of a penny for each turtle. If it’s factual, that comes to $21,120,000 for all the two lane roads in America.
But the issue I have with these so-called “Botts dots” is my inability to drive between them. My father once measured them. There are six dots spaced one foot apart, separated by twenty feet of bare pavement.
That means 2/3rds of the road is bare pavement. So why is it so hard to miss the dots? It’s just a lousy lane change, so why do I usually lose the game?
The human brain is wired to aim for things we can see. We don’t see the bare pavement; we see the raised white (or yellow) dots. In addition, we’re mostly trying to fit between them at an angle. And we’re traveling anywhere between 25 and 75 miles per hour.
The odds are stacked against us — deliberately, so we’re aware of the consequences of our driving.
As a communicator, we also have to worry about the dots in our road. There are consequences for us.
The rules are changed slightly, though. We’re in charge of the bare pavement. Our job is to help people navigate between the dots. We don’t want them distracted by the brrrp, brrrp.
So often, our audiences get distracted by the “turtles,” too. They travel at high speeds. They come at things from an angle. There are just too many dots out there competing for their attention and they go where their eyes lead them. They follow the easiest path.
Even if they take careful aim at our message and its meaning — we’re doing our job perfectly — the odds are too high that they’ll hit some of the dots.
It’s a never-ending challenge to help them travel in our direction, to help them stay between the dots of our competition, life’s distractions, and their biases and perceptions.