Quiet Desperation

Instead of trying to break a record, just try braking


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) just released the results of an extensive study. It may be surprising to you, but it wasn’t surprising to me.

“Our year-long study concluded that there is only one good driver left in the entire country. This conscientious motorist lives in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, he writes a wonderful, weekly newspaper column, and he lives with a magnificent, red hound.”

It went on: “Without exception, everyone else is a jobbernowl.

“You speed, tailgate, roll through stop signs, fail to use your turn signals, and drive through public parking lots like you own the place.

“You’re drunk, stoned, and you suck on coffee cups.

“You talk on phones, text, carouse, snack, apply make-up, and turn to reprimand your kids in the back seat.

“You put others at risk the minute you leave your garage. And you infuriate our exemplar in Colorado. Remember: ‘Anybody’s accident is everybody’s accident.’ ”

Lost cause.

I enjoyed five minutes of infraction-free drivers today before a woman in a monster SUV pulled right in front of me as if I were invisible. As if a two-ton, opaque station wagon had been materialized by Jules Verne.

If she can read lips, she knows exactly how I feel about her.

On the way home, I was tailgated through a school zone.

Since I moved here in 1977, the state’s population has increased, it seems, about 700 percent, and most of the increase, it seems, has been in metro Denver.

They’re working on 470. You may have noticed. I think they’re adding a lane. They could add five or six and the roads would still be swollen at sunrise with zooms of entitlement.

“Son, you’re gonna to drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop drivin’ that Hot Rod Lincoln.”

Everyone, and that includes me, is distracted. No one concentrates on one thing at a time anymore. Oh, maybe brain surgeons do.

Right now, right this minute, while I am writing this column, I am, in addition, ordering art supplies from Dick Blick, playing Fetch and Drop with Harry, corresponding with a wealthy Nigerian widow, and trying to solve the Fourier Transform (I’m close).

However, when I drive, I drive.

I heed and I pay attention. I have to, because no one else is.

For the life (and death) of me, I do not understand tailgating.

Maybe the inconvenience of an automobile accident arouses some people. It must.

Metal to metal, shards of broken glass, blood on the dashboard.

Humorist Fran Lebowitz said that something offends her the moment she leaves the house. Lebowitz lives in New York City, and the offenses she sees probably are not on the roads.

Mine are.

I drive less often than I once did. Maybe that’s it. If I drove as much as I once did, I’d be in the loop and I might even be an offender myself.

My consternation may be age-related. I know I don’t have forever to live, and I don’t want to spend my remaining time in the hospital.

While I may be an exemplar, I am not a slowpoke. I am an assertive driver. It takes one. Overly cautious drivers are road hazards too.

I don’t foresee any overall improvement. Americans prefer impatience and imprudence.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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