commentary by killre
This is the story of my latest brush with that widespread societal psychosis which manifests in stupefying incidents I'm going to start calling One Loud Bozo Proclaiming His Anecdotal Evidence That It's All A Fat Lot Of Hooey. See if you commiserate.
It was Wednesday, which is my day to pick up my daughter from school. I like it less than Friday, which is the day I pick her up from her after-school chess club. That invariably involves arriving a few minutes before the meeting ends and standing in line in the hallway awaiting my turn to announce which sweet child is mine, only to watch three, four, sometimes five other legal guardians who --not to be xenophobic or anything-- apparently hail from cultures that have yet to recognize The Line as a concept, and instead push their way to the front and even stick their head into the classroom as if they aren't already acting like [sphincters].
Still, I like Wednesdays less than Fridays. One reason is that whomever decided to put that school in that location gave very little thought to the traffic patterns created by hundreds of parents dropping their kids off or picking their kids up simultaneously. Bussing is decidedly not big here. Another reason is that what little thought was given to traffic is not fully understood by most of the parents in question. It's a bit like standing in line... but while piloting big pieces of machinery, and multiplied by a factor of fifteen.
Rather than plunge into the depths of that maelstrom, I usually park about three blocks from the school and walk the rest of the way. That's how I came to be sitting on an uncomfortable bench in front of the school, amidst a throng of several dozen other parents, grandparents, babysitters and such, waiting for the last bell to sound, when my wandering ears heard one loud bozo begin his proclamation...
"I don't know. I realize I'm in the minority, but I think all this safety crap is..."
Ambient noise drowned the rest of his sentence, so I can't testify it ended with "a fat lot of hooey," but that's clearly the sentiment he was on his way to expressing. He then outlined a scenario from his childhood involving bicycles, a homemade ramp, and a dearth of self-regard or safety equipment. He ended the story with a slogan he would probably try to copyright if he knew how: "Kids bounce good."
Don't get me wrong: I don't even wholly disagree with him on this point. I still ride a bike on occasion, and have never --not even once-- strapped one of those silly-looking plastic hats to my head. I seldom do anything crazy, though. I stick to bike trails, sidewalks, and seldom-used avenues whenever I can. When I do have to deal with traffic I stay very conscious of the fact that I am an interloper, regardless of what the law says-- like a small dog running with a herd of elephants. Most important, I am old enough to decide for myself whether or not to wear a helmet. Kids, not so much.
The guy wasn't done pontificating. I have been known to rant and rail from time to time on behalf of a losing cause... (For instance, I think most of the so-called writing flooding the screens of our computerized devices these days is, metaphorically, a bad batch of bebop to Beethoven, Bach and Brahms. Sure, it has a catchy name and may be popular for five minutes, but that doesn't mean it isn't atonal caterwauling compared to the classics.) ...but this guy is so old-school he's still fighting the seat belt debate. He did so on this occasion by singing a familiar refrain that has been used by half a dozen would-be comedians whose names you don't know --because being truly funny over the long term requires brain power-- and by a dozen or more other people you've no doubt encountered in your life who never bothered to actually think through the things they believe.
See if you recognize the refrain: it starts with the words "Why, I used to...," then describes a potentially dangerous activity (or an ordinary activity dangerously done), and ends with "...and I turned out fine."
Mentally, I rolled my eyes. Physically, I rolled my eyes and turned my head a little to get a look at this prophet of the church of Survival of the Dumb-luckiest (copyright pending). He looked like the person central casting would send if you asked them for someone who looks not only like a guy who would drive one of those really big pick-up trucks, but in fact like the guy who was driving one the other day and cut you off without signaling, then gave you the finger when you honked at him for doing it. His flesh was hung on one of the more large-issue human frames, complete with an oversized head and beefy bare arms. Basically, he was a left guard with mirrored sunglasses and a bushy beard.
He was standing, of course, because if one is going to proselytize, one should stand. Moreover, he was bent forward slightly so as to tower over and talk down to the poor schlub who was on the receiving end of the discourse, because some dark, hairy part of the peanut brain inside the oversized head was grunting at him that the best way to win a war of words is to physically dominate an opponent who shows little interest in fighting back.
The poor schlub, for his part, was sitting on a bench in front of this discredible hulk, avoiding eye contact and visibly wondering what injustice he'd committed to cause the universe to pay him back in this way. (My personal theory is that he chose to wear so much San Francisco Giants gear --in January, mind you-- that it really ought to be illegal.)
Part of me wanted to walk over there and say:
It's great that nothing bad has ever happened to you or anyone you know, but you do realize that stories that end with "and I turned out fine" are only told by the ones who turned out fine. While they may be the majority, there are plenty of other people who can't tell stories like that because they're dead now. And there are plenty more who could tell two-thirds of the same story, but instead of "I turned out fine" it would end with "that's why I'll be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life." You do know that, right?
Several factors conspired to stop me. One of the biggest was that I'd been nursing myself through some kind of low-grade, 48-hour flu bug that had left me so fatigued I was barely able to drive three miles and walk three blocks to make sure my own child got safely home, and I wasn't looking forward to the return trip. I was in no mood for an argument, which surely would have ensued.
As the diatribe moved to how child safety seats are a bunch of bunk, the Giants fan tried what I call a glancing dissent. Addressing a lamp post approximately forty degrees to his assailant's left, he said, "Oh, I don't know that I entirely agree with that."
The big guy volleyed by saying, "Hey, if a semi runs over you..." and opining that seat belts and safety seats aren't going to make much difference.
Had I been peeved by the way he phrased that, I might have spoken. I might have ignored that seat belts and safety seats are designed for all sorts of accidents, not necessarily just those that turn cars into some sort of metal pancake that has been clumsily and prematurely flipped, and instead told him that slightly more than three out of every four accidents involving both a tractor-trailer and an automobile are the fault of the person driving the car. That statistic comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and is compiled from official police accident reports nationwide. I might have pointed out that not all such accidents result in fatalities (partly due to safety equipment), but of the ones that do the odds are 3-1 in favor of the amateur motorist having done something ignorant, arrogant, careless, downright stupid, or motivated by that combustible mixture of clinical depression and blaze-of-glory self-importance that seeks to somehow include others in suicide. So, I might have concluded, a more accurate way of saying it would be, "If you manage to get yourself run over by a semi..."
I might have, if I'd been peeved.
P.S.... Dan "I'm Confused; I Thought 'Proselytize' Meant
'To Attach A Fake Limb'" Hicks must go.