Maniacs on the road

What is wrong with drivers on the road lately? I’m reminded of a George Carlin skit where he describes drivers based on your perception that sort of fits the start of this blog post I’m making today. His quote (or question), that I heard so many years ago, goes like this. “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” It makes sense actually if you think about it, as our perception is based on us being at the center, a 360 degree view of the world around us. My experience as of late on the wild roads of Northeast USA has been harrowing and terribly frustrating. It seems that other than the majority of semi-truck drivers and myself, everyone is a maniac.

Let me explain the painting to you in what has brought me to this conclusion. Driving to work today, on a highway where the speed limit is 70, I was in the left lane actually doing 75-ish. A silver Dodge Charger came flying up on my bumper (I saw him coming) and sat there, impatiently, probably contemplating on whether to bump draft and pass me or not. Well, there was traffic, I couldn’t go anywhere and had to endure his impatience in my mirrors. Seeing a large line of trucks in my right lane, more than a few have you, I knew this dude would be sucking my fumes for a while. He was weaving back and forth, peering around me and confirming that yes, in fact, I had cars in front of me. Apparently he had this notion that he could go faster in my spot than I could, and wanted to be here or he would die. A mile or two of this escalated to flashing high beams and beeping his horn, still going 75 or so with trucks on our right. I’m a patient person, and can tolerate a lot of poor behavior on the road, but flashing high beams at me hit a seldom pushed button. I took my foot of the gas and slowed down to the speed limit, which was still 70.

A sizeable gap had formed in front of me as the they continued to go 75 or so. This enraged the dude behind me and if he could have exploded like a volcano, there would have been a crater in the middle of the highway. I had become the driver he hated the most. A driver aware of his horrible behavior and ignoring his escalating anger towards me, not because it wasn’t working, but rather because it *was* working but not with the expected outcome he wanted (me moving over to let him pass). I was coming to the end of the long line of trucks after driving about 5 miles and I slowed down to match the front trucks speed with just a few more MPH to creep past his bumper. The truck driver picked up on what I was doing and could easily see the guy behind me going completely insane trying to get me to move out-of-the-way, which wasn’t his fault. So I accelerated and started to move over slowly with my right blinker on. The Dodge dude practically drove up the middle k-rail to get around me with inches between our cars.

roadrage

I imagine this how he looked.  Makes me feel better to think that.

I’m thinking this is over and all would be well again with the world. Unfortunately I was mistaken as the last 10 minutes had taken a toll on this guys sanity. As there was now no one in front of us for almost a mile, rather than take off like I had expected, he immediately darted half into my lane just ahead of my car. He slammed so hard on his brakes that he locked the tires for a split second and then proceeded to mash the gas and take off. With a loaded semi behind me with a driver I’m sure just pooped his pants a little, I mashed the gas and as I was accelerating, I pulled out my phone. Using the shortcut to the camera, I then held it up just behind the steering wheel prepared to take a picture of his license plate once I caught up. He had been really moving and I did a speed that I have done only two other times in my entire life to get close enough to get a picture, which I did. I backed off immediately and, while I’m not going to say what I had reached, it was certainly 3 digits.

Yeah, I know, going that fast to catch up I’m no better than the maniac in the Dodge and became a maniac to everyone around me to do it. Thankfully I had caught up before we hit the traffic pack and I backed off well before I got close, so I was only a maniac to myself, not better, just less of a maniac (just short of plaid). Once I had arrived at work, I proceeded to call the State Trooper Aggressive Driver Hotline to report the offending Dodge’s behavior and give his license plate number. I was asked by the attendant how I got the license plate, and I said that I caught up to him after he passed to snap a picture. She wasn’t pleased as it was clear I had been speeding to catch him and no better than he had been. Regardless, she appreciated that I reported him and confirmed that it wasn’t the first time the license plate had been called in. He was a maniac by all definitions.

terminator

What I wish I could do sometimes

My observation of drivers in general the last several months is similar to all the negativity in the news. While I’m far from an expert here, I see a correlation between uncertainty, doubt, anger, and fear with our countries direction and the state of people driving on the roads. We all take for granted that a vehicle is in essence a heavy object with power much greater than the average person. It doesn’t take much for the thought of ramming the bumper of the person who cut you off or turning into the side of someone who just flipped you off to enter into your head. I’ve tried very hard to keep myself calm and collected while driving as the last thing I need is to push things too far one day and discover that the other guy had a gun under his seat and is ready to use it. Still can’t shake the damn flashing high beams!!

gotagun

So cute, but she’s a badass!

I’m exposed only to the northeast U.S. and have no clue how drivers are acting in other parts of the country. For all the bad drivers we have in the U.S., I’d gladly take them over having to drive in China. I’ve read articles on the chaos they have on their roads because of drivers with less than 15 years of experience to draw upon. Americans have been driving since the early 1900’s and were afforded the mistakes in a world where the fastest car could only go 30 MPH on a good day. Modern cars can easily reach 130 or more (most US vehicles are limited at 105 or less).

#anger, #george-carlin, #guns, #road-rage, #speed, #speeding, #violence

Fearful of the future

Once again, I read about another situation where civilians targeted police officers and people ended up being killed. I’ve seen conflicting information about whether the gunman called police to the scene on purpose or if it was just something else entirely, such as “wrong place at the wrong time”. There isn’t enough detail in the news that I can completely trust enough to know which side is right. To be honest though, it really doesn’t matter, people died for something that didn’t need to happen. I’m referring to the gunman AND the police officers, not one or the other. The thoughts and feelings I’m experiencing are hard to put into words.

I’m the first one to admit that I’ve said and done the wrong thing at the wrong time. In some cases, I was provided the opportunity to apologize and in others I wasn’t and lost the respect of the other person. That is all my fault, partly because I wasn’t thinking, partly because I was naive, partly because it’s what I had believed at the time and hadn’t been given all the details or facts. In all cases, I learned from those experiences, rather, the experiences that I was provided the chance to learn from. The individuals that enlightened me rather than hate me understood that some things just aren’t known to everyone all the time. They took a chance on offering their knowledge to me in a time when I probably didn’t earn it or deserve it, but had hope that a fellow human being could be helped to understand the bigger picture.

I grew up in a white neighborhood and went to a primarily white school. It wasn’t until I entered high school that I had fellow students that were not white. I was dumb, naive, and stupid about the larger world that I hadn’t experienced yet. At no point though did I treat anyone differently. Everyone started with the same level of respect and acceptance when first meeting me. It was only after their actions dictated a change in respect, I never got to a point where I didn’t accept anyone. My life the past 40 years has been dotted with situations that fall into the “shouldn’t have said that” and “shouldn’t have done that” moments. What most don’t see when they only look at the surface though is the fact that I’ve learned from every situation where I had done or said something stupid. As I progressed through high school, college, corporate work; those situations where I said or did the wrong thing have grown farther and farther apart.

A particular experience, that I’ll never forget, involved a co-worker at one past job where I was in my early 20’s. For months I picked up on negativity directed at me and others on the team that were white. Meetings were especially brutal for me specifically as I didn’t have the operating knowledge required to back up my ideas or suggestions. This person continually had the upper hand with me and I can’t recall a single idea that didn’t have a “devil’s advocate” approach from them. Months of this took place and I just accepted it. At the time I had no idea why I was the usual target, but reflecting now I can see why. One particular day, a specific comment was directed at me that struck a nerve as it turned personal that was directed at my wife. I asked, politely, to meet with them privately and they reluctantly agreed. I asked them why I was being singled out? I asked why they never gave me a chance? The answers weren’t surprising, but my follow-up caught them off guard; “Why does the color of my skin determine if I’m worthy of your respect and acceptance? At no point in the last 6 months have I been anything but respectful and accepting of you as a fellow co-worker. Do I not deserve the same?” I asked they just think about my questions before answering and excused myself from the room, I didn’t feel it was necessary to stay after confronting someone so personally. It was a few days later that they called me into the same room. I got answers to my questions that confirmed my belief that I was superficially judged and they didn’t allow themselves to see past that. Our working relationship improved from that point forward but it never progressed farther than that, mostly because of my unwillingness to mix work and personal life. I did earn their respect and acceptance and I like to think that I learned a little from the situation in that until you let someone know where you stand, nothing will ever change.

I try so hard to not judge others. I’m a fallible human though and nothing is ever perfect. It’s the imperfections in life that makes everything so interesting. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I tend to accept more rather than reject, a fact that isn’t lost on me as this usually happens in the opposite direction for most people. I can’t recall how many times I’ve talked to my Grandparents and realized over and over that they were truly racist and bigoted people; a product of their time unfortunately. My parents chose not to instill those ideals with my brother an I and I’m thankful for that. It helped me to see and recognize the behaviors that perpetuated the violence and hatred from centuries past. I’ve lost friends over the years because they got angry with me for my refusal to polarize “with my own kind” (their words, not mine) when violence erupted over race. I’ve also distanced myself from people that perpetuated that kind of hate and rhetoric because I just don’t think it does any good to get that angry over something. Sure, there are bad people out there, sure things will happen regardless of our best efforts, but I cling to the hope that we’ll start to learn from our mistakes and expend energy on positivity rather than negativity.

I’m fearful for the future for the first time in a long time. Seeing and hearing about escalating violence is a major contributor to that fear in that it being a cycle that really never ends. It can get worse, or we can recognize our negativity and decide collectively to make a difference. I consider myself part of the solution more so because I’m willing to accept and learn from my mistakes, but that only works if others recognize that I’m going to make mistakes. Mistakes due to lack of knowledge or life experience, not due to malice, racism or bigotry. Where are things going to go? It’s up to the human race to decide, because in the end, our brains are grey and we all bleed red.

#acceptance, #black, #fear, #learning, #racism, #respect, #violence, #white

We all bleed red, so shut up!

I woke this morning to the radio, guess I didn’t push the slider all the way to buzzer.  A radio DJ was talking about the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  He was debating with another DJ how it supports black supremacy in that it incites violence on police officers and others.  The conversation devolved quickly from there and I tuned it out because my opinion on the matter doesn’t quite align with the accepted views.

We all bleed red

I can recall with vivid detail the first time I said the statement “we all bleed red, so shut up.”  I was in high school, primarily white at the time, and my views towards race and violence were naive at best.  There were over 1,200 students in my high school with less than 100 minorities.  My high school was like any other, clicks of people aligned to common interests:  jocks, nerds, cool, not cool, black, etc.  I never subscribed to the juvenile separation as I viewed everyone the same.  Immediate respect until your actions dictated otherwise.  It was a simple rule that holds true now as I round out my first 39 years on the planet.

This particular incident involved my befriending of an African American that shared 4 of 8 classes, all in the afternoon, with me.  Lets call him Joe.  Joe and I literally walked in the same direction, every day, for weeks, until I finally decided to start talking to him.  At first it was awkward, almost like we shouldn’t be talking, but it was more than that.  Even now as I recall, I can’t quite come up with an explanation as to how or why it felt that way.  Regardless, we ended up becoming decent friends.  It was months before I actually ventured up to his click one morning to say good morning.  His reaction towards me was the polar opposite of how we had been for the last several months in the hallways walking to classes.  It caught me off guard.

Being the type of person I am, I persisted and shrugged off the reception.  I asked a question about a class later in the day.  Joe’s friends (I guess) turned to him and asked “You hang out with this dude?”  He didn’t answer right away and I responded “We have four classes together in the afternoon, it’s not hanging out, but we do talk every day.  What’s wrong with that?”  Well, lets say that I got an earful that included several phrases that don’t need to be recorded here.  Joe did nothing to stop the tie raid unfortunately.  I listened to this for a few minutes and just put my hand up once three of them had joined in the conversation.

They all stopped and just looked at me after I put up my hand.  That’s when I said “We all bleed red, so shut up.”  Still, they kept staring at me.  I turned to Joe and said “I thought you were better than this, obviously I was wrong.”  I started to walk away at this point and just said, not directed to anyone, “Don’t worry, I won’t be coming by again or talking to any of you again.”  I didn’t turn around after walking away to see any of the reactions, but the conversation started up as I turned down the hall.

That was the last day I spoke to Joe directly.  It took me a few days to understand what had happened and I became angry.  I couldn’t get past the fact that our skin color defines how we interact with the people around us.  I recently finished watching Falling Skies and there was a profound statement at the end after we had defeated the alien invasion forces.  “We’re not alone anymore.  There isn’t any black, white, yellow or brown anymore.  We’re all human beings living on Earth.”  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  Here was a fictional show, about aliens, that managed to sum up what I believe the majority of people already think.

Our news is filtered

Watching the news is something I don’t do anymore.  I realized a while ago several things that I didn’t like about the news in the United States:

  • It’s filtered
  • Every broadcast ends with a happy/humanitarian piece
  • World news doesn’t include the world majority of the time

News stations know this already of course.  If the story is too radical or heinous, it is never reported on.  War coverage was probably the most ridiculous of all in that what is really happening is no where near what is reported as happening.  I’ve seen documentaries on past wars, unfiltered and raw, that ripped at my gut as I watched.  I *know* current wars are the same, yet no one ever sees that.

The coverage on #BlackLivesMatter is just as ridiculous.  I won’t go into a tie raid about it as that isn’t the point I’m trying to make.  When you see videos urging people into action to cause violence against police under the guise of #BlackLivesMatter, then take action, you in turn are contributing to the problem that created the movement in the first place.  Human beings have an instinct to protect themselves that is race blind.  It’s a flight or fight response that no one has any control over.  Having a weapon in hand that can determine whether you live or die, it’s no surprise that these things are happening.

#HumanLivesMatter

There are some that will say that #BlackLivesMatter is racist.  There are some that will say that #AllLivesMatter is racist.  I call bullshit to both of them.  The true movement here is, and should always be, #HumanLivesMatter.  It doesn’t take a huge effort to treat others with respect and dignity.  I’ll admit that in a society that is pushing 7 billion world wide, there are going to be some truly disturbed individuals.  If society was more willing to truly treat others as you want to be treated, those unsavory individuals would stick out like a rice kernel in a salt shaker.

We all bleed red, so shut up.

#dignity, #racism, #respect, #violence

ISIS and Jordan

I couldn’t sleep last night, was up around 3am and decided not to try and force myself back to sleep.  Went online and started searching for the ISIS video where the Jordanian Lt. was recorded being burned alive.  It didn’t take me long to find it and I watched all 21 minutes of it.  I should have turned it off, but I was compelled to watch it without regard to my own feelings at the time.  Still I am having trouble trying to figure out why I watched it.

The video was horrific.  Disturbing on a level that I didn’t think existed.  I was left with a feeling of dread wondering what can make a human being capable of such a horrible and senseless act of ultimate cruelty.  Another human being decided that this was an appropriate action to incense an entire country, region and world.  This one act has polarized the world view of ISIS and as with Al-Queda before them, will be eradicated for their crimes.  This poor Lt. was doing his job and duty to protect his country and I have to give him the benefit of the doubt that he wouldn’t have used unnecessary violence to complete his mission if he could avoid it.  Instead he is held hostage for weeks and had his life taken to prove an empty point of a radical group of individuals.

I don’t pretend to understand their beliefs.  For all I know they may have a valid reason to support their beliefs.  What they did though to show it to the world is a useless waste.  No one that has unfortunately seen the video would say at the end “I understand why they did it and want to support their cause.”  No one with even a marginal moral belief system can honestly endorse such cruelty regardless of the reasons for it to occur.  I don’t agree with Jordan retaliating with an “eye for an eye” action either.  They are now no better than ISIS in my opinion.

Shouldn’t have watched that video……

#cruelty, #isis, #jordan, #violence