“Unpresidented” Interview

The following is a fictionalized interview with a fictional former President of the United States.

I’m sitting in a nondescript conference room nervously awaiting his arrival. Realizing how lucky I am to score a one-on-one interview with this man, a slight smile creeps across my face.

Without warning the door opens and in strides a Secret Service agent complete with earpiece and three-piece suit that looks crisp, clean and brand new. He stops three feet inside the door to scan the entire room with the cold, determined eyes of an eagle preparing to take flight. The eyes finish their scan directly on mine and do not move.

Seconds later he makes his appearance through the door, strutting in with the gait of someone who clearly knows how to make an entrance. Looking at me with eyes that are welcoming but at the same time determined, he extends his long arm as he approaches, barely giving me a chance to stand before arriving to shake my hand.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he says with genuine warmth and a voice that reflects years of public speaking.

“The…uh…pleasure is definitely mine, Sir,” I manage to stammer, trying unsuccessfully to hide my nervousness.

He puts a hand on my shoulder. “Relax. We’re all friends here,” he says, turning briefly to wink at the agent who has no reaction. The agent has already moved back three feet to stand beside the now-closed door. Eagle eyes are still on me. Somehow I get the feeling I’m not his friend.

“Have a seat,” he gestures, ushering me into my leather chair in a clear attempt to put me at ease before taking his own seat at my side. He adjusts his suit coat slightly, leaning back in the chair with his unchanging smile. “Now, where would you like to begin?”

I turn on the tape recorder, placing it directly between us. Closing my eyes briefly, I take a silent deep breath.

Showtime.

JIR: How’s the life of a private citizen these days?

FPOTUS: Not as private as I would like. I think I gave up that right. But I get to do things that I couldn’t do in office. It’s nice that I don’t need a travelling zoo to accompany me everywhere I go. Cameras still click away and people stare whenever I go somewhere, but not like they used to. I’m good with it.

JIR: How are you keeping yourself busy?

FPOTUS: I’ve long since published my memoirs. So that’s out. I find myself involved in a lot of volunteer activities. Now mind you I don’t go to the big events. That would be a circus. Most of my work is done behind the scenes – working the phones, networking. And I go to church every Sunday.

JIR: I’m not surprised. You’ve always been very religious.

FPOTUS: Yes. I’ve not kept that secret. Church service centers me. Regardless of how your week has been, going to church weekly puts things into perspective. I come out every time ready to go forward with my next week. It’s like a pep talk for your soul.

JIR: I’m sure the congregation oohs and aahs over your presence.

FPOTUS: Not as much as you think. I’ve been going there for years now. I’m pretty much just one of the congregation now. Now the first Sunday I went it was different. I was doing the normal mingling after the service. It had pretty much become a line to shake my hand. But one wonderful man put things into perspective very quickly on that day. He came up to me and said, “I didn’t vote for you. But welcome to our church family.” (We both laugh.) That brought me down to earth very quickly if I were anywhere else.

JIR: Wow, really? That took guts.

FPOTUS: I told him so, yes. Now I can actually call him a friend. We’ve talked a number of times. But he still wouldn’t vote for me.  (laughs)

JIR: What about speaking engagements?

FPOTUS: Not really my cup of tea. Sure, I’ve done a few when asked by someone promoting a cause that I truly care about. But I had my time at the podium. That’s someone else’s game now.

JIR: Let’s look back on your time in office…

FPOTUS: Must we? (laughs) I’m sorry. Go ahead.

JIR: You were president when things seemed to be a lot different in this country. Neither the internet nor the alternative news outlets were around. It was just the big three networks. What was it like to be in office during that time?

FPOTUS: Well, without having the foresight of what was to come it’s hard for me to put that into context. We didn’t know anything other than the way things were at the time. It was harrowing at times, exhilarating at times, stressful all the time. And the news reporters who were around dogged you just as fiercely as they do today. There were simply fewer of them. (laughs) I’m sure every other president before and since would say the same. Now WITH the foresight of what was to come, thinking back about it now I would have to call it (pauses) liberating.

JIR: Liberating, really?

FPOTUS: Absolutely. I wouldn’t take the job today if my life depended on it. The pressure was always intense. But today’s environment is far worse. Today there are entire news outlets and websites dedicated to either lifting you up or tearing you down depending on your political party. Things that are said in specific circumstances are twisted to make you look like a saint or a clown. There’s a lot of guilt by association as well. You once shook hands with so and so. That means you fully endorse his ideas and beliefs. It’s really sad because the public at large buys into it to a certain extent. They shouldn’t. It’s all about the almighty dollar for these people.

JIR: That’s a very cynical way to look at it isn’t it?

FPOTUS: Sadly, yes. But I find it to be pretty accurate. I’m not saying there aren’t honest journalists out there. In fact I’d bet that if given a lie detector test, most of them would pass if asked the question of whether they are truly trying to serve the public to the best of their ability. However, today we have the internet and 24-hour cable news networks in addition to the traditional media. They’re all competing for an audience. So it’s never been more important than now to have sexy sound bites, headlines and promotions that catch your eyes and ears. In the end, every single one of them has the goal to make money. Well, except C-SPAN of course. (We both laugh.)

JIR: Thank God for C-SPAN, huh?

FPOTUS: I know, right? (We both laugh.) But I’m surprised we’re talking about this. I thought you would have some other questions.

JIR: Well I did. But I think this topic is very pertinent. And I can tell that it is to you as well.

FPOTUS: I’m in full agreement. In fact, I would venture so far as to say this is one of the most pressing topics facing our modern American society.

JIR: Really?

FPOTUS: Oh yes! I mean look what’s going on right now during this administration. You have a full on bipartisan investigation into the Russian ties, or possibly, lack thereof to this administration. And it seems there are at least two completely different realities depending on which news reports you listen to. If you turn on MSNBC or CNN, it’s a foregone conclusion that something is going on. If you turn on Fox, this entire thing is a witch hunt and the administration is being treated unfairly. And large segments of America have completely bought into one of the two realities before the investigation is even completed. And even worse, many espousing one side of the argument are doing everything they can to damage the other side. It’s a viciousness that is completely uncalled for.

JIR: As a journalist I’m in complete agreement. In all my years of experience things have never been as polarized as they are now. Why do you think that is?

FPOTUS: Well sadly I think a lot of it has to do with the amount of news sources there are today. It goes back to what I said before, the almighty dollar. If you want to draw attention you need to stand out. So the temptation is to bend or even break the truth. At the same time there are news sources created by people who have a specific ideology to push, people who have never had the resources to push their beliefs like they do right now. I could start a blog tomorrow pushing the idea that…uh…we will soon be invaded by aliens who live on Mercury (laughs.) I had to be careful there to pick an ideology that doesn’t already exist. And if it does, I apologize. Anyway…with a little money in my pocket, some skillful words and a knack for spreading the word about my blog, I’m sure I could have a decent amount of followers in a short amount of time. They would then begin pushing those beliefs on their Facebook pages and so on. I’d start drawing advertisers to increase my resources and continue from there. You see how that works?

JIR: That’s very well said, Sir. And it’s frightening to think about.

FPOTUS: I agree. And what’s even more frightening is that I might not even believe what I’m writing about in the first place. It could be just a big money-making scam.

JIR: Wow. You’re giving me chills. (pause) That leads me to the question of fake news. There’s a lot of talk about that these days. What’s your take?

FPOTUS: Well (pauses) it exists. And there are as many types of sources as there are fake stories: money-making scammers, political ideologues, entire governments and even internet trolls – you know the ones who just like to create chaos on the internet for their own amusement. And what’s sad about that is that no matter how fake it sounds to most people, there are some people who believe it, especially if it puts a bad spotlight on something or someone they already hate. If a (makes air quotes) “story” reinforces something they already believe, many people will just accept it as fact without even questioning the source. The fake news makers know this. So why should they stop?

JIR: Agreed. And it also makes it very easy for someone to call out a real story as fake simply because they don’t like what is being said.

FPOTUS: Exactly! It’s a double-edged sword. Today we have legitimate news reporters, people who’ve been around for years and have always gone by the book long before this was even a thing, being called fake. It’s very depressing.

JIR: It is. I’ve been called that myself. As a journalist I have always turned the other cheek. You realize that there’s no way to report the truth without angering someone. Actually if you DON’T anger someone you probably haven’t done a thorough enough job. But this is different. It’s hard to not let it get to you a little bit. What do you think is the answer to all of this?

FPOTUS: Well (long pause) I don’t know if there is an easy way out of this, especially when you’ve got some news sources outright telling their audience to distrust anyone who says different. (pause) But I think a way to move forward would be for all Americans to take a good look at themselves in the mirror. Do you honestly believe that your point of view is the only valid one and that it is completely right all the time? I was wrong many times during my presidency. I always want to learn more, to better myself as a human being. I’ve learned plenty during my years in office and even more after leaving the office. I’m a different person today. Some beliefs that I had while I was in office are no longer my beliefs today. And I thank all the people I’ve encountered in that time who have helped me see new and different things. I feel there’s no shame in being wrong. There’s REAL shame in refusing to be open to new ideas and to refuse to admit that you might be wrong. I also think Americans should turn off the news shows, turn off the computer and get outside and out of their comfort zones of people who think like they do. Go find someone with a different skin color, a different religion, a different political belief, someone from a different country. Engage them. I will bet you money that if you open your mind to them you’ll find you have a lot more in common than you thought.

 

Golden Years

“Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.” – Mark Twain

I just got my hair trimmed the other day and noticed the clippings on the floor resembled fresh snow on the ground.

Old age has been creeping up on me for the past 50 years. There’s no denying that I’m far from the skinny nerd I was when I was in high school. I’m still a nerd, just not so skinny and with a lot more wrinkles.

And lately I’ve been thinking more and more about an event that happened quite a few years ago.

I was with my mother visiting one of her older friends who was in the latter stages of her life. She spent most of her time in bed at a nursing facility. She shared a double room with another older lady. Mom and I were preparing to leave at the end of our visit as Mom’s friend had to be taken out of the room for something. I trailed behind a bit.

The lady in the other part of the room struck up a conversation as I was preparing to leave. Being polite, I stayed and talked for a bit with her about her kids, grandkids and shared bits about trivial topics. I was eager to leave and join my mother. But I let her go on and tried my best to stay engaged with her.

I can’t for the life of me remember her name. I don’t even remember what she looked like. But I will NEVER forget one thing she said.

She turned to the desk beside her bed, looking directly at a picture of a distinguished older gentleman I assumed was her husband. Her eyes became glassy as she gazed at him for a few seconds. And then with a sound that I could only describe as a woeful and frail wail she said, “Come back! Come back…” The second time trailed off.

I had to get out of there! I did my best not to let her see me start to cry. I told her that I really needed to catch up with my mother and bid a very heartfelt goodbye with a gentle hug.

I never saw her again.

That day completely changed my perspective. It was a coming of age moment that has helped me to become the person I am today.

This poor lady’s family never came to see her. She was so lonely that she was reduced to begging her late husband to come back. I still have to keep myself from crying each time I think about it (even right now).

It’s just so incredibly frustrating and saddening that so many of our older citizens are hung out to dry by their families. They sit day after day in their homes, in facilities, just waiting for their families (or anyone for that matter) to show some interest in talking to them, to just be with them. They all deserve better.

And they have so much knowledge to share, so much history. Talking to someone in their golden years can prove to be very educational and many times downright fun. I’ve learned so much from the times I’ve talked with people in their golden years. I’ve learned firsthand accounts of the Great Depression, World War II, the early 60’s and other historic times. I enjoy every minute.

Now that my mother is nearing that point in life I vow I will NEVER let her feel that lonely. I will also work to engage as many older people as possible as I travel through life. Not just for them but for me as well. I’m richer for every experience.

I just wish I could go back to see that lady one more time and learn about her life. I feel that I’m missing out.

Talk to someone in their golden years today. You don’t know what you’re missing.

Get Along

“Courage is grace under pressure.” – Ernest Hemingway

I realize how long it has been since my last post. 

A lot has happened since then. I’ve lost dearly loved ones, changed jobs and watched the lines in my face deepen.

I’ve also watched with dismay what has happened to our great country. We went through one of the most divisive elections in our nation’s history and have collectively watched as our new president has seemed to stumble his way along. Some love him. Others hate him. But everyone has an opinion.

But much larger than that is the way in which Americans have treated each other. It seems like courtesy and respect have been replaced by name-calling and in some cases fisticuffs. And it makes me want to cry. I’ve had discussions with friends that have nearly devolved into shouting matches. I’ve watched protests and counter-protests end with injuries on both sides. Why?

The rise of “fake news” – which seems to be interpreted as any news item with which I disagree – is a big reason. Lies become truth when all you listen to are liars. And many of those lies are fueling mistrust of other people.

There is so much anger out there, so much distrust, so much hatred. And Americans are increasingly turning their anger on each other.

Anger is very easy, yes. Blaming someone for a “problem” is a lot easier than trying to fix the “problem.” It’s convenient, cheap and requires very little effort.

It’s also the way of the coward.

It’s easy to point a finger at someone else and blame them for your lot in life. Maybe they look different. Maybe they vote different. Maybe they believe different. And since they are different they are an easy target. Anger increases the release of dopamine, your body’s natural Dr. Feelgood. Putting someone in their place just makes you feel good. “I showed him didn’t I?” Lashing out also makes you feel in control. So many of us feel that our lives are not completely in our control anymore. Lashing out at one of “them” can make you feel like you’ve regained control.

But it’s like consuming too much alcohol. There is always a price. The good feeling disappears and the control is only temporary. And you’ve almost assuredly created a time bomb that could explode right back in your face. Anger begets anger.

And guess what? The problem has not been fixed.

Now more than any time in modern history our country needs courage. Courage involves stepping in front of two people shouting at each other. Courage involves stepping outside of yourself and into the shoes of another with an alternate point of view. Courage involves talking WITH your “enemy” rather than AT him.

So turn off the television. Disregard the angry web rants. Make it a point to talk to people with a different point of view. Seek them out and talk to them. You will likely find they are not really your “enemy.” In fact, you’ll probably find you have a lot in common with them.

Once you realize how much you have in common you can ease a lot of the anger and really start working on fixing problems. That’s what TRULY can make America great again.

Courage is easier than you think.

 

 

‘Til Death

“Social conservatives seem to see a bigger threat to marriage from committed gay couples who want in on it than from straight ones who opt out of it.” – Margaret Talbot

On Thursday, Indiana officials agreed to recognize the existing out-of-state marriage between two Indiana women because one of the women has ovarian cancer. Recognizing the marriage allows the other woman and the couple’s children to receive death benefits. To this I say bravo. But it took a court filing by the couple to make it happen. The state would not have done it otherwise. It shouldn’t have to be that way.

So much has been said about the red hot topic of gay marriage over the last few years that it has become something impossible to ignore. Opinions are very strong on both sides.

Indiana has become a battleground for the issue with the state’s much discussed ban on same-sex marriage being recently overturned by a federal appeals court. The measure now appears to be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court with the potential to change things for the entire country.

As you can probably guess by now, I am completely against this ban. And for me, it’s simply a matter of common sense.

Indiana law allows marriages to be performed by:

(1) A member of the clergy of a religious organization (even if the cleric does not perform religious functions for an individual congregation), such as a minister of the gospel, a priest, a bishop, an archbishop, or a rabbi.

(2) A judge.

(3) A mayor, within the mayor’s county.

(4) A clerk or a clerk-treasurer of a city or town, within a county in which the city or town is located.

(5) A clerk of the circuit court.

(6) The Friends Church, in accordance with the rules of the Friends Church.

(7) The German Baptists, in accordance with the rules of their society.

(8) The Bahai faith, in accordance with the rules of the Bahai faith.

(9) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in accordance with the rules of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

(10) An imam of a masjid (mosque), in accordance with the rules of the religion of Islam.

That’s straight from Indiana Code, folks. Here’s a link. To summarize, an official does not need to be affiliated with Christianity or ANY religion for that matter to perform a marriage. So by extension, religion itself does not need to be present in any marriage ceremony for the marriage to become legal in Indiana. So what’s that again about marriage being strictly Christian and/or religious? Longstanding Indiana law says otherwise.

Indiana Code also requires people to be at least 18 (or 17 in special circumstances) to get married. There’s no language whatsoever about a maximum age. There’s no language to prohibit grandma from remarrying after grandpa dies. And I don’t think the new couple are going to have any more children. So let’s hear those arguments about the purpose of marriage being procreation. State law does not mention it.

In every part of the Indiana Code, the law says “two individuals.” Polygamy is not permitted. It also makes no mention at all about animals, inanimate objects or anything else getting married. Perhaps it should to satisfy the people who scream that allowing gay marriage will open the door to “me marrying my dog,” etc. It’s sad that people make such arguments in the first place since it’s very clear that a dog or truck can’t sign their name on a marriage license.

Other arguments against gay marriage include the belief that same-sex couples can’t be the type of parents who will raise well adjusted children. While I think that’s a completely silly position, let’s say for the sake of this argument that there’s validity to it. Who said a married gay couple needs to adopt? If they don’t adopt would you still be against the marriage?

So the bottom line here is that common sense AND existing Indiana law shoot down pretty much every argument against gay marriage. What’s left? The unspoken truth behind virtually all of the gay marriage opposition is, “I find it distasteful.” It’s discrimination plain and simple.

So if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t attend the ceremony. Don’t associate with the couple. But don’t prohibit two consenting adults from committing their lives to each other.

And when you think about it, allowing gay marriage is the most pro-family position you can adopt. It’s telling gay people that they are expected to live up to the same standards as straight people instead of “living in sin.” What’s more pro-family than that?

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Gentlemen, start your engines! – Tony Hulman

While the first person to utter those famous words (now used all over the country/world to begin races) remains the subject of much conjecture, the phrase is universally recognized to have started at the Indianapolis 500. And the late Tony Hulman, the man who saved the 500 from utter ruin following World War II,  is the one who made them famous.

May in Indianapolis!

To anyone who has grown up in or around Indianapolis, I needn’t say anything more. Those three words are all it takes to bring a smile to their faces. The month of May in Indianapolis is more than just a month. It’s an attitude that permeates the entire soul of the city. It is, of course, the month leading up to the annual Indianapolis 500 held every Memorial Day weekend. Starting early in the month checkered flags begin to appear in gardens. Drivers tend to get a little more competitive on their way to and from work each day. People start whistling “Back Home Again in Indiana,” much to the delight of some and perhaps to the annoyance of co-workers originally from out-of-state.

And for yours truly the meaning is even stronger. The little town of Speedway (entirely surrounded by Indianapolis) is where I was privileged to grow up. Yes, the town got its name from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which lies entirely within its borders. For the first several years of my life I lived in a house on 16th Street about 8 blocks down from the famed oval which shares an address on the same street.

I remember my youthful sights and sounds of Race Day in the 1970’s very well. I would listen as the sound of 33 engines, accompanied by muffled calls on a loudspeaker and occasional massive cheers, roared blocks away. The race was not on television. So people would have radios blaring in the background while they were gardening, grilling, and otherwise enjoying the day. A few times my mother would take me on walks up and down 16th Street to look at all the parked cars. We made a game of spotting license plates from different states and, yes, countries. There were more Canadian plates than you would expect.

While my mother would take me (on foot) to the track for qualification days, we never made it to a race.

Then in the mid 1970’s we moved away from that house to another house still in Speedway but about a mile farther away from the track and off all the main arteries. Things changed a bit. The sounds were a little duller. But the excitement never faded.

However, it was while living in THAT house that I got my first experience at the race itself. My dear mother got tickets in 1979 on the front stretch not far from the finish line. I remember seeing Rick Mears cross first to win his first of 4 races. I also remember the crowd cheering LOUDLY for A.J. Foyt who coasted across the finish line to take second. But the seats were on the lower level under the second tier. So save a few pits and finish line it was difficult to see much. I longed to go back again someday with better seats.

Fast forward to 1984. My mother again, colluding with her sister, got tickets for my cousin and I to attend. These seats were at the exit of Turn 1 in the absolute top row. MUCH better. The two of us, both in our teens, were like kids in a candy store as we watched the Air Force jets fly over, listened to Jim Nabors sing “Back Home Again” and cheered when Mary Hulman said those words her late husband had made so famous. Everything became a blur after the cars first appeared in Turn 1. I was just too excited to remember all of it. And as fate would have it Rick Mears won his second race that day.

We renewed our tickets the following year and the following year. Little did I know at the time that those tickets would remain in my name for the next 30 years. As years progressed my cousin could no longer attend. But that didn’t stop me. Friends, other family members, girlfriends, co-workers and more recently my wonderful wife all took the seat at my side every year. Unable to find a buddy one year I went alone. And it never EVER got old. The pre-race and post-race traditions would always give me the chills. And the race itself was always exciting. Take this, this and this as examples of how exciting this race can be. (NOTE: Be sure to watch all these short videos to the end.) I was there for all of them.

Then last year I attended with my brother-in-law. My wife, getting older and wary of the long walk back to my mother’s house after the race, decided she could no longer attend. I was disappointed. But I understood. When she started experiencing medical difficulties during one particularly hot walk back one year I knew times were changing. Track officials also announced that ticket prices for the following year would be raised. The same seats next year would be $100 each.

The race itself was particularly exciting with leads swapping between 14 different drivers a record 68 times. Think about that! The race is 200 laps. That means the lead changed an average of once every three laps. A HUGE Tony Kanaan fan, I watched with hope but ever present fear as he ran near the front most of the day. I knew all too well his history over the past 11 years at the track, finishing second one year, crashing another year and otherwise experiencing all kinds of bad luck. He ended up winning his first race! I was so happy I nearly leaped from the stands to give the guy a hug.

His winning the race drove the final decision. With my wife’s difficulties, the higher ticket prices, and finally getting to see TK win his first race, I made the hard choice not to renew my tickets for 2014. Sadly, the time was right.

So this year on Race Day, I will not have tickets to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. And I can’t help but feel that a tiny part of me has died. I know I will be longing to be sitting there in the stands watching all the festivities. But in the end, I made the right call.

Perhaps someday I will go back to that amazing race. As long as the checkered flag waves and someone is there to utter those famous words, this gentleman’s engine will never truly die.

E.T. Phone Home

Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us. – Bill Watterson

Here’s something a lot of people may never have thought about. Let’s say for the sake of this discussion that the doomsday asteroid that killed the dinosaurs never happened. Dinosaurs would have lived and – over the eons – evolved. What do you think their descendents would look like today? I’m guessing it would be something like this.

Alien <<<<<<< Does this guy remind you of anything you’ve seen before?

I’m going on the record to say that I believe in intelligent life on other planets. Yes, I’m a Christian. Yes, I believe in evolution. And yes, I know that doesn’t necessarily make sense. But I’ll bet there are more than a few of you out there who also believe both.

Of course there has not yet been any certifiable proof that life (intelligent or not) exists on other planets. But I truly believe its only a matter of time. However, for me it’s not really about proof. The concept of life on other planets simply makes the more sense to me than the idea that we are alone in the universe.

Think about it. Science has long since proven that those tiny “stars” in the night sky consist of other planets in our solar system, stars themselves outside of our solar system, even other galaxies made up of millions, billions and even trillions of stars. Here’s a link to give you an idea of just how many stars there actually are.

Now let’s stop and think about that. With more heavenly bodies out there than anyone could possibly count over a multitude of lifetimes, does it make sense to think there are no others with the characteristics of Earth, ripe for life to exist? And even if there are no others like Earth, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It’s been proven life does survive without sunlight and in pressure environments much greater than to what we are accustomed.

For the devout Christians, yes I know the Bible doesn’t really address the idea of life on other planets (though that’s open to interpretation.) But the thing about the Bible is that so much depends on which specific passages you choose to cite. As many people know, the Bible contradicts itself in many places. Then there’s the issue of which version/translation you choose to follow, King James, American Standard, English Standard, etc. But that’s a subject for a future post.

Another point to ponder is that perhaps intelligent life is monitoring us and choosing to hide itself from us due to our less than pleasant reputation. Let’s face it, humans have a horrible track record of mistreating other intelligent beings. Take the case of the American Indian, native Africans brought to the U.S. as slaves, the religious-based Jihad of extremist Muslims and countless other examples across the world. Maybe extraterrestrials  are afraid of us. Who wouldn’t be?

All this is why I look up at the stars at the night sky and wonder. I wonder how many of those tiny dots have intelligent life. I also wonder how many beings on those worlds are at the same time looking up at their sky, seeing OUR tiny dot and wondering the exact same thing.

 

Driving Me Crazy

I had to stop driving my car for a while. The tires got dizzy. – Steven Wright

George Carlin once said, “Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” Well, the other day I was driving down State Road 43 into Lafayette when I came to the part of the road where it widens to four lanes. Not on my way to work or limited by any time factor, I was going a crisp 60 mph (in a 55 zone) and kept a steady pace. Four vehicles behind me decided that I was an idiot. So all four maniacs – in a quick parade – shot into the left lane to pass. I watched for a bit as they tried to outmaneuver each other ahead of me to be first in line.  Now by myself on the road, my attention shifted to a wonderful scene at the side of the road of people outside in their yard enjoying the nice spring day. It made me smile. About a minute later I came to the stoplight and quickly noticed – yep – all four NASCAR drivers stuck at the red light in front on me. So long story short, I caught up with them and got a nice little eye feast before I arrived.

I forget who said it, but it was a very apropos comment at the time. “People drive everywhere today like they’re driving to the hospital.” It’s very true. And I used to be one of them. My wife is still somewhat apprehensive about driving with me. I’ve tended to be in a hurry for no apparent reason and taken stupid chances that don’t really make any sense. Sure I arrived at my destination earlier by something like 5 minutes. And I arrived there in a bad mood, hands shaking, cursing all those idiots on the road. But hey, I beat all those idiots and arrived there early dammit!

I guess part of it has to do with people’s innate desire to win. We may be having a bad day, be in debt, or have any of a thousand other issues we’re dealing with. But to get in front of all those other drivers on the road, that makes you a winner. Be proud. Be happy (until you get behind the wheel again). Everyone else out there thinks you’re a maniac.

Now I understand if you are running late for work, an appointment or actually going to the hospital. But what purpose is served by driving like a maniac to the grocery store? Don’t worry, groceries will still be on the shelves waiting for you to arrive.

As I’ve aged, I’ve taken a conscious effort to slow down on the road and enjoy the ride. And that is a lot more possible if you’re not clutching the wheel in a death grip, eyes narrowed on all the idiots in front of you. I’ve noticed a lot more beautiful things at the side of the road. I’ve noticed interesting trees, beautiful flowers, nice scenes of people at play, and hundreds of other wonderful sights. Every one of them, every single one, makes me feel a bit richer for the experience.

I also look at it spiritually. I know everyone out there has different beliefs. I even have a friend who’s a Satanist. But regardless of what you believe, there will come a point when your earthly body will wear out. What happens after that is open to multiple interpretations. Ultimately we ALL have the same destination to eventually leave our bodies. So it makes sense to slow down and enjoy every moment, even on the road.

So the next time you’re on your way to the grocery store, take it easy and notice the sights along the way. You don’t know what you might be missing.

But hey, you don’t have to listen to me. I’m just an idiot with a blog.