The other day as I waited in line at a traffic light, I noticed the car in front of me and the two beside me all contained drivers working rapidly on smartphones. It seemed the only drivers in that line of traffic not using smartphones was myself and another old driver who was too busy trying to spit into a Sundrop bottle. When the light changed, it seemed like it was forever before everyone was ready to move because they had to get their thoughts together about driving and look back up from staring at all those little screens. At that moment, I sort of wished I had a Sundrop bottle to spit in and I wasn’t chewing anything except my words.
The era of social media has gained complete control of our lives to the point where many of us no longer have awareness of what occurs around us. Just recently, former State Representative and now Tennessee County Commissioners Association Executive Director Charles Curtiss told one of his country humor stories during a meeting I attended the other evening in the role of my new job as a county commissioner, that pretty well fit my experience at the traffic light. Thought I would share it with you and ask Mr. Curtiss for his forgiveness because it sure nailed me on the spot. The way I explain it does not do it justice in the manner that he can tell the story.
It seems this young fellow had stopped behind this lady at a traffic light one afternoon in somewhat of the same manner that I had become involved in recently. As they sat there waiting for the light to change, the lady was working with her smartphone and had become very involved in the messages she was reading. When the light changed, she continued to punch the keypad of her phone and lost complete understanding to where she was, along with what she was suppose to be doing.
The young man behind her became increasingly furious and began screaming out the window, as well as beating on the side of his car. The language used was also not necessary to the operation of an automobile and it had become a very ugly scene that the young man was preforming behind the lady who had just looked up.
Stopped also directly behind the young man was a policeman who had been watching the entire process of events, and after seeing all that he wanted too, he turned on his blue lights. The lady saw the lights in her mirror and took off, going out of sight. However, the policeman pulled up beside the young man and told him to pull over into a nearby parking lot.
The young man didn’t know why he was being pulled over, and when the policeman approached him after they had parked, he said, “Why are you stopping me? That lady who was holding up traffic is the one you want, not me! I haven’t done a thing wrong.”
The policeman told the young man to lock his car and come along with him. All the way to the station the young man continued to say he was not guilty of anything and it should be the lady. But once at the police station, he was held for 3 or 4 hours in a small room.
Finally, the policeman who had arrested him came into the room and told him he could go. The young man exploded again and demanded to know why he had been brought down to the station.
The policeman looked at him and said, “As I sat there and watched you behind that lady, I couldn’t help but notice the cross on the chain hanging from your rearview mirror. Then I saw the bumper sticker on your bumper that said ‘Jesus Is Lord.’ I also noticed you had a window decal that had the words, ‘Follow me to Sunday School.’ After seeing all of those items and then your actions, I came to the conclusion that “this young fellow has stolen this car.”
Since hearing Charles Curtiss tell that, I’ve often thought about how many times someone could wonder if I’m driving the wrong vehicle. Just today as I write this column, a lady followed me so close on a rural road that I couldn’t see her headlights. I was doing the 40 mph speed limit, but that was not fast enough I guess. When she got the chance she took a side road to attempt to beat me to her destination, which was her child’s elementary school I found out later. Strange enough, we arrived at the same time, but she was in front of me due to having to speed through some real dangerous roads. The irony was that her license plate was all about early detection to save lives in health, when her driving could have taken out many innocent lives as well by the unnecessary speeds she was traveling.
For some reason when we get in a vehicle we assume we can’t be seen or our actions mean nothing, when in fact we become the proverbial people who live in glass houses. Maybe we all need a Sundrop bottle instead of a smartphone. At least you have to look ahead to hit it.
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org