Who is the public? Everyone's the public, right? Are you the public? Well, maybe. OK, I'm confused; let's try an example.
Let's say that I'm driving along on the route #3 and I'm running a little late. I pull into the zone, load some customers, and wait for someone who's running late. I pull into the next zone, load some customers and, again, wait for a runner. Wait! What's that in my rearview mirror? Oh my, it's my route follower. I'm really late!
Question: Who is served by my waiting for runners? Am I providing a public service? Or a service to a couple of individuals?
What makes a person a part of a community?
With this rhetorical question in mind, let's talk about current events. Yesterday, the Interstate-5 bridge over the Ship Canal was closed down. Apparently a young woman pulled over to the curb, got out of her car, and sat down on the far side of the railing planning to jump. Police were dispatched, and they closed the right lane of traffic to have a little room to work, and they were talking to the woman. Eventually the police had to close the entire span, both directions, during rush hour.
Why? Because hundreds of motorists were yelling "JUMP!"
Now, I don't believe that these people, as individuals walking by would have yelled "jump." Most of them, anyway. Only when gathered into a group would they do this. People call it "mob psychology," as if naming it helped you understand it, and blame it for riots, wars and bad taste in television programs.
The woman jumped. 160 feet into the water. She's in serious condition in Harborview Medical Center with a broken spine and internal injuries.
Everyone else complained about the delay and inconvenience. At least those that weren't yelling "jump."
Punchline: That is the public that I serve.