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Monday, April 27, 2015

Wait Your Turn, Please

While we were out and about today, something happened that made me remember one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite films. The film is The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and was based on the story Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (1982, Different Seasons) by Stephen King. There is a character named Brooks Hatlen who is released after spending almost his entire life in prison. He has no idea of what the world is like any more, or how to live in it. He writes a letter to his friends in the prison which had been his only home for so many years and tells them that he is frightened and has bad dreams. He mentions that he saw an automobile once when he was a kid but now they are everywhere. "The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry," he says.

We were driving on one of the major streets in our area and saw a fancy Cadillac with out-of-state license plates turning out of a Starbucks near Interstate 25. "Uh-oh!" I said as the driver made a jerking turn into the lane to our right. Unfortunately, my instincts proved to be spot-on. Although there was little to no traffic behind us, this driver was compelled to turn right when they reached the major street. Apparently the driver saw us, hence the wonky hard turn into their nearest lane. But as soon as we were right next to them, they turned on their left turn indicator and immediately started changing lanes.

Now, I will freely admit to not being the smartest person in the world, but there are some things that I do know. And I know that Mr. or Ms. Cadillac Driver was attempting to break a law. A law of physics, something about two objects not being able to occupy the same space at the same time. Thanks to Trent's quick thinking, we avoided having my passenger-side-riding body smashed to smithereens by a big Cadillac. As Trent looked briefly in the rear-view mirror, the Cadillac bullied across three lanes of traffic to make a left turn back onto the highway. If the driver had simply waited about fifteen seconds, they could have made their way onto the street, and then the highway, with no problems whatsoever. 

The funny thing about this is that something similar but even scarier happened to us yesterday as we were driving to church. We had a green light, again on a busy and major street. I saw a car at the upcoming intersection begin a right turn onto our street. Naturally, instead of turning into the right lane, they turned directly into the left lane. Luckily for us there were no cars in the left turn lane for the traffic going in the opposite direction because we had to go into that lane to prevent being smooshed by an SUV. The driver went blithely on her merry way, completely oblivious of the accident she almost caused by not bothering to look for oncoming traffic before she turned.

When that happened yesterday, it made me think of my father-in-law, who is now gone from us. He believed that the front-seat passenger had some definite responsibilities, and he took them very seriously. These included being a lookout for various things in the flow of traffic, like a car in the driver's blind spot, and generally assisting with navigation. The responsibility he took most seriously as the person "riding shotgun" was yelling insults about the annoying or downright dangerous mistakes made by the other drivers on the road. He'd have had his work cut out for him the last couple of days, that's for sure! 

I don't want to sound preachy, but I can't help but think that life would be safer and less stressful if we paid more attention to the road when we're driving than we devote to our coffee or our cell phones. And I can't help but wonder if everyone should have left their homes ten minutes earlier or if the world really has gotten itself in a "big damn hurry," as Brooks Hatlen said. I'd rather think it's a matter of being a big hurry rather than lots of people being driven by a feeling of self-importance and a lack of concern for others. 

Luckily we don't find ourselves as overwhelmed by the world being in a big rush like the character of Brooks Hatlen did. The fast-moving, wide openness of the world proved too much for him, and his character found himself fantasizing about buying a gun and holding up the grocery store where he worked as a bag boy. He thought that if he did this, maybe even shooting the manager, that he would be sent "home" to the prison. His gentle nature made him unable to take this cruel step, so he decided to leave the world behind completely by ending his own life and his misery. After I see people rushing around like this I sometimes find myself wondering (after the angry feelings have cooled down) if, like Brooks, they are overwhelmed by the hurry they seem to find themselves in. If so, I hope they can slow themselves down and find a sense of peace. And I hope that they and their fellow motorists keep safe.