One of the reasons I enjoy watching Cash Cab is that it reminds me that people are actually awesome. That's easy to forget while watching reality TV, especially game shows. Most of the people on TV appear to be vile fame whores who are rewarded for selling their souls and excising any remaining shreds of conscience and genuine emotion.
But when people compete on Cash Cab, they are (1) genuinely excited (or at least genially bemused) to be playing; (2) able to poke fun at themselves; (3) supportive when working in teams; (4) sanguine about losing, usually exiting the cab with an easy-come-easy-go smile. When people are not selected for personalities outsized enough to avoid domination by the oppressive Albert Speer-esque sets now de rigeur in the post-WWTBAM era, when they are not coached about making sure their interminable and uninformed answers have plenty of personal backstory attached to them, they're actually likeable. Yes, likeable quiz contestants -- how long has it been?
It's for that same reason that I enjoy participating in the occasional knitting competition or swap. I've posted about Dish Rag Tag recently (the box is now in the hands of the third out of twelve knitters on our team -- go April in Texas!). An important reason I continue playing, though, is that you meet the nicest people. How thrilling is it to see members of a team logging into a website every day to cheer each other on and even comfort each other through unexpected grief or personal crisis? The spirit at work reminds me of de Tocqueville's identification of America's social strength through voluntary associations. Somebody needs to write a rebuttal to Bowling Alone for the internet age, because everywhere I look I see people connecting and forming ad hoc groups that often burgeon into real, effective, supportive communities.
I just signed up for another swap precisely because I like the idea of meeting more of these people -- these unexpectedly decent and giving people who prove in a hundred robust ways that there's no reason to become a misanthropist, no matter what you see on TV.