Driving to the Park

If this post looks familiar, there’s a reason. I accidentally published it before it was finished. So, now, I’ve finished it and am publishing with a new title.

PSX_20180924_232233As I age, I become more of an observer of life and (perhaps) less of a participant, although I prefer to think that I participate in kinder and more considerate ways. Even when the forty year old in my head conspires with my Inner Curmudgeon try to agitate me into repeating the actions of my youth … say, flipping off the driver who cut me off … I resist. Most times successfully. Sometimes, the behaviors of our strange species that I observe are exactly what sets off my forty year old and my Inner Curmudgeon and my brain becomes a battleground between Look at that. Isn’t that interesting, and Look at that idiot. I should give him a piece of my mind (a truly odd saying, if you think about it).

Today has been such a day. On my way to the park this morning, I was struck by the driving habits of the Common California Commuter. The drive down Weir Canyon Road was like the start at LeMans, cars changing lanes at the slightest slowdown in front of them and speeding by on both sides of me even though I was driving ten miles above the speed limit. I was tailgated by a young fellow in a jeep on the way to McDonald’s for my morning coffee. I could almost hear his muttering, Move it, Gramps, as my Dad used to do when someone slowed him down. The Jeep finally passed me by going straight from the right turn lane. On the way from Mickie Dee’s to the park, I was almost clipped by a monster truck making a left turn from La Plama Avenue through the turn lane where I was waiting for the light to change. I was cut off by an impatient Maserati (really, are there any other kind?) and as I slowed to turn left into the park, a woman in a CR-V blew her horn to hurry me along. I was in my observer mode … I neither slowed down or flipped her off, even though my Inner Curmudgeon was screaming for a middle finger. Conservatively, on the short drive from home to the park, I counted 78 traffic violations (well that’s a wild ass guess, but it suits this post).

There are over 6 million traffic accidents a year in the United States, leading to 2.35 million injuries and causing 37,000 deaths. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see a traffic accident somewhere in my travels even though at most days, I don’t travel much. It makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with us that we drive with such little regard for human life. A Google search provided many answers but none fully satisfactory. In an article, Why We Become Such Assholes When We’re Behind the Wheel, Erica Slotter, a social psychologist at Villanova University says, When we’re in the car we often feel anonymous. Instead of seeing individuals, we simply see a type of car, or an endless stream of automobiles. This, in combination with perceived anonymity, gives us the sense that we won’t be held accountable for our actions. When we feel anonymous, we lose focus of our moral compass and are more likely to behave badly. Maybe a simpler explanation comes from Jimmy Buffet (always an interesting observer of life) in his hit song Fruitcakes: human beings are flawed individuals. The cosmic bakers took us out of the oven a little too early. And that’s the reason we’re as crazy as we are.

I certainly don’t claim to be a perfect driver nor do I deny that in my younger days, I could be one of those fruitcakes on the road. But one of my goals here on Oldereyes – Bud’s Blog has been to share the changes in perspective that aging brings. And one of the most significant changes has been my attiude toward driving. Those elderly slowpokes I used to dread getting stuck behind on the road have simply seen that life is too short to hurry through, especially if that hurrying puts others at risk. I don’t know why I had to live for 70 years before I could share that view but let me pass this along. It is a view of life that, in hindsight, I wish I’d learned many years ago. Don’t wait. Slow down and live.

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