Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Dreaming As A Survival Strategy"

Recent front-page “Lead Story” headline in the L.A. Times

“Los Angeles sees surge in car crashes.”

(You know, normally, newspaper headlines capitalize all the words, sometimes capitalizing all the letters.  I suspect that the L.A. Times did this “lower case” thing on purpose – They did not want to scare the subscribers.)

Writers, by avocation and often too by personal preference, live in a fantasy world.  I myself have not infrequently been accused of at times being insufficiently “present.” (And have been considerate enough not to remind my detractors that those characteristic “absences” paid for this house.)

Health professionals – I am stereotyping here although not maliciously – work to dissuade their patients from living in fantasy worlds so they can more happily and productively embrace actual reality.

Okay, so you climb down from the clouds and what’s the first thing you are perhaps confronted with?

“Los Angeles sees surge in crash deaths.”

My immediate response to that being,

“I want to go back to my fantasy world.”

I mean, come on.  Wherever you live, though more unavoidably in Los Angeles, you are required to drive places.  Do you really want to know first thing in the morning that your chances of getting there have been seriously diminished?

I don’t.

You want to hear some statistics?  And if you live in Los Angeles, you may not be so quick to respond in the affirmative.  It’s just that a post is respectably enhanced by the inclusion of “hard numbers.”  Otherwise it’s just a guy, possibly irrationally, bloviating hot air.   

Okay.  And you may skip the following paragraph if you are averse to carnage, even if it’s simply numbers on a computer screen, rather than driving “Lookie-Looingly” past a car accident – slowing traffic immeasurably in the process but that’s a gripe for another occasion – and sympathetically going, “Oh, my.”  (Transparent Schadenfreude for “I am glad it’s not me.”)

Continuing the L.A. Times article…

“In 2016… 260 people were killed in traffic collisions, an increase of almost 43% over the previous year, {which} appears to be more than a one-year fluke:  So far in 2017, crash fatalities are 22% higher than in the same period last year.”

And as if that weren’t enough to make you choke on your Cheerios, expanding the concern nationally…

“In 2016, 40,200 people died in crashes involving cars.”

Consider that for a second.

Forty thousand two hundred people were going someplace…

And they never showed up.  

How’s that for giving reality a bad name?  Nobody ever dies in a fantasy world.

The article goes on to delineate reasons for this dramatic surge in car crash fatalities.  But you know what?

I don’t care.

I drove to “Pilates” this morning, and it was hardly absent from my mind that, in just the first three months of this year, my chances of delivering myself there safely had dropped 22%.

“Normal” people, apparently, do not consider such matters.  It would seem that, for them, the idea of traffic fatalities – over forty thousand of them annually – is shrugglingly “Business as usual.”

And I ask you,

Who’s the crazy person?

The person internally registers that daunting statistic, or the person who blithely ignores it, pulling out of their driveway and heading off to their destination?  (While simultaneously texting or holding their i-Phones to their ears, or maybe, as I have personally observed, administering makeup to their faces, brushing their teeth, or bisecting a sandwich nestled precariously on their laps)?

I could rattle on about cave people enjoying better odds making it back safely to their domiciles, or western pioneers returning to their homesteads unhurt after riding to town for supplies, or at-risk Black Plague candidates reaching their hovels “plague-free.”) 

But why waste your time with unprovable comparisons?  Of course life has never been a hundred percent “Danger Proof.”  Still, wouldn’t you expect that the twenty-first century could do better than over forty thousand families getting notificational phone calls from the police?

That last sentence, although accurate, is, perhaps in retrospect, overly gloomy.  Who knows?  Maybe it is healthier not to think about those things.  It probably is, as there is little you can do about the aforementioned eventuality beyond driving responsibly, and being hyper-vigilant when other motorists do not. 

Why bring up this matter at all?

So that, at least now, when you see someone drift away into a fantasy world, you may be more understanding concerning the reasons they went there.

And give them a considerate break or two when they do.

(Unless they are behind the wheel at the time, in which case “Knock it off!)


JED said...

Part of the problem I see causing those increased car crashes is the people behind the wheel living in a fantasy world. Either by drinking, smoking or pill-taking themselves into Fantasy Land or imagining themselves being so insightful that the world just must have their comments on the latest cat video right now! The guy who wasn't important enough to call before you jumped in the car is now so important that you must call and discuss how stupid the others drivers are. We just can't be living in a truly free society unless anyone can do anything they want whenever they want to do it.

I was almost hit by a distracted driver the other day. It would have been more than a small accident because I was riding my motor scooter. But he had to look down at his phone instead of turning the wheel to follow the curve of the road because the world couldn't wait for his texts. It only takes about 3 seconds and you have fantasies no more.

Anonymous said...

It's a really good time not to be driving, gotta say. What really shocks me, though, are cyclists riding through London traffic with their ears plugged with headphones...