Dude, you’re harshing my buzz…
I have had a hard time writing my blog post this week. Usually, something happens during the week that reminds me of a funny anecdote from my younger days and I can fold the two together to create a little piece of literary ribbon candy.
This week, I have found myself too distracted to reminisce. I found myself witness to a bizarre traffic incident and read a couple of disturbing media posts that have left me feeling like much of the American population has substituted it’s cocoa puffs with coocoo puffs, or added a shot of ‘questionable behavior’ syrup to their extra hot, half caff, no foam lattes.
Let’s get caught up, shall we?
Thanks to a spark of surburban planning genius, the road leaving my neighborhood, merges with the driveway that serves as an entrance and exit to a shopping center. This was not a big deal when the shopping center contained a supermarket that few people shopped at and a vacant former Home Expo store. A few months ago, a certain discount superstore moved into the old Home Expo space and the parking lot turned into circus. The superstore could use a parking lot three times the current size, a concern which was raised by the residents of my county as soon as it was announced they were moving in. We were informed, however, by the county planning office that according to their city plans the parking lot and it’s entrance and exit “met county regulations” thereby alleviating them of any responsibility to, you know, check.
Since the store has opened, there have been multiple accidents in the parking lot, people can’t seem to figure out the traffic pattern, and then there was this bizzare incident:
The entrance and exit of the “superstore” consists of a traffic light and a divided (by a narrow mulched embankment) driveway. Exiting traffic stays to one side and incoming traffic is entering on the other. At least four times, I have seen exiting cars turn into the entrance lane, realize their mistake, and then have to back out (sometimes with incoming traffic barreling towards them) and turn into the correct side of the driveway. In this particular instance, an elderly woman trying to exit the parking lot turned into the entrance lane, pulled right up to the light, and sat there, waiting for it to turn green. A man parked in the correct lane, rolled down his window and tried to yell across to the woman that she was in the wrong lane. The woman either couldn’t hear him, or was ignoring him. The man, then got out of his car, walked across the embankment to the woman’s car and tried telling her through the car window that she was in the wrong lane. The woman looked terrified that this man was yelling at her through the window, as if he was about to carjack her Oldsmobile at gunpoint. After a minute though, the woman seemed to comprehend what the man was telling her (good thing it is a very long light). Even then, she just waved him off as if to say, “pish posh, don’t be silly” and went back to waiting. The man gave up and went back to his car. When the traffic light changed, and cars started coming directly toward her, she continued to sit there, while the incoming traffic (who luckily had been watching her from across the intersection for two minutes) drove around her, honking their horns and shaking their fists. When the outgoing light turned green, the cars allowed her go first, and then we followed, all equally puzzled by what had just gone down. Maybe I should have been able to just dismiss this incident as a random one-off. But I am still thinking about it. Was the woman simply confused? Did she have dementia? Did she feel that she had just found a way to the front of the line? Would she have taken help from somebody other than the man who tried to intercede? Should someone close enough to have seen her plates written down her license plate number and called the police?
Being that my tendency is to over think, my mind has been busy trying to dissect the above incident. Maybe that’s why my brain has been unable to comprehend the two stories I read about in the days that followed. One was about a Florida college student who died as a result of a marching band hazing incident (There is hazing in marching band??). The other was about a college fraternity that was suspended after creating a survey which asked men to choose which women on campus they would like to rape. (Really?) Both of these incidents are, in my mind, pretty disturbing. At what point, in either incident, did people allow themselves to think, “this is all in good fun.” Having spent the bulk of my career working in higher education, it saddens me to no end that even with all of the anti-bullying and anti-hazing initiatives and sensitivity training that has been implemented on college campuses, these incidents continue to take place.
On the other hand, should I be that surprised? Look at how our national leaders act publicly towards each other. Name calling, back stabbing, scapegoating and accusation throwing are all par for the course on the political scene. There are a plethora of bad examples out there who get plenty of air time from the media. Still, it is no excuse for poor judgement and hurtful behavior.
I find myself thinking that this truly great (but currently troubled) country of ours could use a voice of reason. Someone who does not have a personal agenda to push, or an election to win. Someone who could help us put our differences aside so we can again recognize the human qualities that make us mostly the same. Since a national voice of reason seems unlikely, maybe each family could appoint their own. Wouldn’t it be nice if in each family there would be someone who said that regardless of where we stand on any issue, perpetuating violence (physical or verbal) is not okay. Because I don’t think it’s just implied anymore. And that while none of us are perfect, we should try awfully hard to do no harm. I’m not talking about being “politically correct.” I’m merely suggesting that before we do something, we take a step outside our little box and look both ways to see if there might be larger implications to our actions coming down the road.
(P.S. Next week is Chanukah- always a happy and exciting time in my house. Hopefully, once I am in the holiday spirit with visions of latkes and dreidles dancing in my head I will return to my humorous, self deprecating, family teasing self. In the meantime, thank you for indulging me this opportunity to clear my mind. And a special thank you to my favorite clip art characters (the screen beans) for helping me out with my little cartoon.)