With each advance in technology there is a certain amount of collateral damage to those unable to adapt to the change. The conclusive effect of one momentary lapse or a split second of timing is sobering to contemplate.
Imagine the toll on your below average caveman following the advent of fire. The invention of words necessarily lags behind technological advances. “Yikes!” or “Ooohh! That smarts!” were probably not the words used by the first Neanderthals to survive walking barefooted into the campfire.
Fast forward a few millennia. There is still no word describing smart phone users who meet their demise by walking into open manholes or strolling blithely into traffic.
Over a century into the mass adoption of the automobile, the annual death toll is now declining. However, the total fatalities resulting from texting while driving continues to rise. The phones may be smart but I have seen no mandate that smartphone users also be so.
I confess that I am formerly a leading contender for a Darwin Award – Four Wheeled Vehicle Category. In my immortal youth, careening down a curvy mountain road in neutral and ‘straightening the curves’ was simply ‘what I do.’ What a ‘clever’ way to impress a date.
I have now left those thrills behind me.
One time though, I became painfully aware that my misjudgment nearly cost me my life.
I was sailing down the I-5 and making good time when, without looking, I merged into the leftmost lane. Have you ever changed lanes without looking?
That unthinking action forced another driver out of her lane and almost into the concrete meridian. She thankfully, maintained control of her car and, leaning on her horn, got my attention. Shocked and embarrassed, I corrected my course and returned to my previous lane. I waved an apology and continued with the flow of traffic.
She was not done with me though. Not satisfied with my lame apology, she set out to teach me a lesson, regardless of who it might injure. Pulling up next to me, she swerved into my lane. To avoid a crash I swerved right and almost hit another driver.
Then she swerved into my lane again. And again.
How does one apologize to, or reason with anyone, in another car, while hurtling down a freeway at 70mph?
I didn’t blame her for being angry, but I wasn’t about to be drawn into a race or a game of chicken. It became a matter of survival.
I slowed and let her pass. Cutting me off, she hit her brakes. I slowed again, giving her as much space as possible.
There were no exits I could get to. The interchange for the I-5 and the 170 freeways was minutes away. I merged into the lane that allowed me to take whichever route my nemesis did not. Again she moved in front of me and hit her brakes.
Traffic was backing up. Drivers raced by us honking. I worried about the known adversary in front of me and an unknown driver, misjudging my speed and slamming into me from behind. I turned on my emergency flashers.
Every time I slowed, she would slam on her brakes and close the gap between us. As we approached the freeway split, her driving became more erratic. She did everything she could to force a collision.
As the freeway split approached, we slowed more and more. Then she gunned her engine and merged right onto the 170.
I coasted onto the island and stopped, idling for a few minutes. I was rattled. I let my breathing subside. My heart rate normalized.
I watched for a break in the stream of traffic and merged left onto the I-5.
It was a normal day again.