Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blowfish and I were in the car when he said, "Fishy, look at this!"

In the car on our right was a young teen girl.
She looked 12 but must have been at least 15 to be in a car alone. What had gotten Blowfish's attention was her actions. She was agressively sucking her left thumb while texting with her right. I beeped the horn and when she looked up I smiled a gentle mothers smile, shook my head no while holding up my cell phone. Right. She flipped me off, which at least required the removal of her thumb from mouth.

Later that same day I was talking to Bob on the phone when he suddenly exclaimed, "God Almighty! " and went on to expound at length about how he was seeing the craziest driving ever since the first Model T rolled forth. Of course our conversation was taking place from our respective cell phones in our respective cars.

Yesterday's paper offered a front page photograph of a head on collision between a car and an oak tree. The oak won, the car was totaled . The driver, a 15 year old and her 17 year old girlfriend survived with non life threatening or life altering injuries. There was this quote from the investigating officer: " I don't know what these girls were doing before they ran into this tree. Whatever it was had their full attentions because there is not a single break mark. They drove head on itno this oak at 50 mph. "

That comment made me think of a driver the day before who nearly drove into me at 80 mph, on a bridge with no place to evade. I definitely left break marks on the road in a serious effort to give the driver passing illegally on a 2 lane road, on a bridge, room to clear the car he was passing without having a head to head encounter with the Fizz. I felt true hostility toward that other driver . I wondered what made his schedule more important than my life?

Last night, I witnessed 2 startling driving events in the span of less than a mile. One was a near miss, the other sideswiped a light pole and proceeded down the thankfully empty sidewalk for a block before returning to the roadway . Wow.

Of course it is easy to think of these issues as foolish or careless when we are threatened or observing or reading about them but what about when we are the ones making the poor choices? I got to thinking about this because of my July weekends.

On the first weekend I visited a friend in the mountains. When she was showing me around the region she drove way too fast on twisting, curving, riddled with blind spots, narrow mountain village roads. I demonstrated my concern by the death grips I placed on available handholds. That communique was largely ignored while my friend gaily chatted about the vistas flashing by too quickly to see anything other than a blur. The very next day we traveled the same path but this time in the Fizz with my foot on the accelerator. My new transport is called the Fizz for a reason and so I was really in the moment enjoying the performance characteristics with the top retracted and the seats air conditioned when my friend yelled, " Fishy! This is far too fast for this road." I smiled and dropped the mph by one as we aproached a sharp curve. A mile or so down the road my friend yelled, " You know I haven't asked anyone to pull over and let me out of the car since my niece was a teen but I think I'm there." I did slow down and mentioned I did not think we were traveling at any greater speed than the day before with her at the wheel. She rolled her eyes , disagreed and mentioned she knew the road well while I was a stranger to it's hidden risks. Point taken. "Comfort zones" are also "control zones" in that we feel in control and therefore comfortable with the risks of the situation when we are the driver and not when others are driving.

Last weekend Blowfish and I went to visit our beloved Mermaid. On Sunday morning following a leisurely breakfast Mermaid drove us in the Fizz out to the farm to see and feed horses. It was a beautiful day and once we turned off the main highway we were on a fine tree lined, narrow, country road with mostly farms on either side. It wasn't long before I felt anxiety at our rate of travel which was roughly double the posted speed limit. I was about to say something when Mermaid sang out,
" Wow Mom, the Fizz handles really well ."
" Yes, she does but slow down please."
" Why? I am completely within my comfort zone."
" Well you are completely outside my comfort zone so cool it"
" Mom, that's ridiculous, you drive this fast all the time."
" Okay. My bad, now back off the accelerator "

No comment and no slowing down happened.
Precisely as I had done with my friend the previous weekend.
Then from the back seat came this command from Blowfish,
" Now".
Immediately Mermaid decreased the mph to almost the posted rate.
I did give some thought to the differences in her response to her Dad vs her Mom.
It wasn't hard to figure. Blowfish drives the speed limit, rarely talks on a cell while in a vehicle, even as a passenger, and he doesn't text at all. He is a responsible, careful driver. He is right when he says it is unfair that he is the one with the most speeding tickets and the only one of us who has totaled a car. He is right, it is unfair.

I found myself hoping with every trip to the horsefarm Mermaid will hear her Dad's instruction and heed it. I pray she will not use my bad example as her excuse to ignore her Dad's advice. I also wondered how I could impart to her the importance of the current need to be more vigilant as a driver than ever before. That it is no longer prudent to assume the other drivers with whom you are sharing the road have an equal interest in their next breath. Or even an awareness of the risks they present to themselves or others. Or the vitaly important awareness of when we are the driver posing a risk to others. Or if where our "comfort zone" is also the "dead zone".

We did not make it home from Mermaid's in the time frame expected. We took a scenic route for the last third of the journey, in an area of the Smokey's with little cell phone reception. So Mermaid's calls to both parents went unanswered for a few hours. So she worried and then worried some more. When she did finally reach us her anxiety level was acute enough for her to yell, " You scared me!" I get that kiddo, I get that. So forgive me my tresspasses , drive prudently and know beyond any doubt you are loved.

9 comments:

Pam said...

SUCKING HER THUMB while texting and driving???? Let me ask again ... sucking her THUMB? That is crazy. Cuh-ray-zeeee. And heh on the little turn-about-is-fair-play with the Mermaid. Does them good for the worry to be on their side once in a while. Sounds like a great weekend though! Here's to a happy week. And a safe one.

moi said...

I can't get the image of that stupid thumb sucker out of my head. Nor her flipping you off. The gall!

I must admit, though, I love a fast car and usually drive like a bat out of hell. I won't make apologies for myself by claiming that I'm an "excellent driver." But at least I restrain myself to the speed limit when others are in the car.

Aunty Belle said...

heh.

Mountain scenery whippin' past as ya curl outa the inside curve, over the creek and up the next stretch...I'se had a couple of similar rides. Wuz wonderin' if yore friend's niece was any more responsive than yore Mermaid? Mebbe it's a young'un thang. Leastways, I doan reckon Mermaid sucks her thumb.

I drives too fast too. But iffin' the passenger yells WHOA! I stop--truy, cause Aunty gits motion sick herself unless I be the driver when I'se on a mountain road, so I know how bad it can make the rider feel.

glad youse safe--we's all jes' a whisper away from eternity.

Boxer said...

amen Fishy and the thumb sucking idiot should thank you for being so kind about her stupidity.

I have the same issues with my neighborhood; I'm constantly telling guests who are drving me to slow down and then.... I usually catch myself going the same speed. Everything seems faster in the drive's seat.

Mermaid said...

Alright FISHY!!!! I'm sorry!!!! Truth be told the speed limit is only that low when going in one direction on that road and it's much higher going the other direction... go figure. Just remember who taught me how to drive that way AND who told me that "the Fizz handles really well and is great fun on back country roads..." I was just testing ;)

As for worrying about y'all on the road... I worry about y'all constantly, on the road or otherwise so it's not that abnormal.

As for suckaing one's thumb while texting and driving... that's just retarted to a level I can't begin to wrap my head around... Hope she has an excellent gaurdian angel! I've certainly been blessed with mine!

fishy said...

Pam, I kid you not! It certainly was a shock and on one level, inexpressibly sad to see an of age driver sucking her thumb. Like witnessing the anxiety of a very young child.

Mermaid has spent a lifetime of stressing over her parents. Her Dad is actually old enough to be her grandfather. Her life changed forwever once I broke my neck. This event introduced her to a terrible kind of fear and an awareness of the fragility of us all while she was still in kindergarten.

Moi,
I think learning to race my Uncle's
'cuda while still a teen was maybe not a good thing :-(

I think someone like you could write a great piece about thumb sucking children driving cars.

Aunty,
You, Moi, Mermaid, me ... we all drive too fast. Now, more than any time since I started driving, we should change our policies even wehn we are the only occupants. Bob was right, we are all seeing crazy driving daily. Even multiple times daily.The reality is changed and our skill levels notwithstanding, we should adjust immediatedly. Had I been driving 80 like the illegal passer on the bridge, it would have been impossible to stop before the head on. Had I been distracted and not seen this unfold, it would have been equally tragic. The lack of skill companioned with the lack of focus and the increase in distractions has critically changed the odds.

Boxer,
The thumb sucker image haunts me. And you are right again in observing we mostly are more comfortable with speed when we are in the driver's seat and not the passenger seat. Which was exactly my point about the need for we excellent, but accelerator loving drivers to be more aware when we are the risk. Or in my caseAnd yep, I did say the Fizz was a fun drive but there is still a requirement for prudence. I get that I have been a horrid example , have begged your forgiveness for this terrible judgement and ask you to please find some good exaple I set to follow not this one. Surely there is at least one. Thank you, most precious Mermaid child.

Buzz Kill said...

Cell phones will be the downfall of civilization. I can't tell you how many times a day I see someone talking or texting while driving. It scares the crap out of me. They're unguided missles and it pisses me off at how ignorant and selfish these people are. I refuse to answer my phone while driving, even when I know it's the Mrs.

The boy just got his licence a few months ago and I had him watch this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0LCmStIw9E

I don't know if it did any good but I've haven't seen him with a phone while driving - yet.

fishy said...

Mermaid,
Somehow the last half of my comment to you became fused to my comment to Boxer. How? I have no clue.

My point is this. The risks are greater than ever before on all roads. ( See Buzz comments about unguided missiles) Thus, even we skilled drivers must now get off our accelerators and be ever vigilant defensive drivers.

Yes I did say the Fizz handles great and I did say the Fizz was fun to drive on adventuresome roads but I did NOT say it was only fun at high speed. There is great driving pleasure in perfection and finese which requires skilled, precision driving without breaking limits.

I believe I publicly apologized for having been a bad example to you and also request you heed these cautions Babe. YOu might also want to visit the YouTube video referenced by Buzz.

As for the thumb sucking driver? Some equivalent form of this risk is on every road presenting a threat to us all. Show me your wisdom kiddo, show me the wisdom!

Buzz,
So you now live in the terror zone of parenting a newly licensed teen on the road? It does sound as if you have made an effort to advise, council and, threaten your son into safe driving habits. I hope he heeds these lessons.

In our case, I had Mermaid drive us everywhere for 3 years before she earned her permanent license. My logic was I did not care when the state said she could have a license. It was not their decision to make, it was the decision of her parents. Mermaid has fine driving skills, but I dont always concur with the standards or applied logic of her generations cultural norm.

Boxer said...

did you watch P.R. last night? Pam did!