Our three grown children love their home town; two of them have moved back. All three have the same reaction to what used to seem like a sleepy town on a peninsula, far from the main highways:
Drivers are nuts.
The back streets, where our children walked to school and some of our grandchildren now walk, have become obstacle courses for drivers that run stop signs, tailgate, speed, make turns without signaling, and other dangerous moves.
I hasten to add, the offenders are not some mysterious “them,” outsiders new to the ways of suburbia or America. The enemy is us – commuters and other locals, mostly in the physical prime of life, trying to control mammoth vans and SUVs, with one hand on a cup of coffee, the other hand on a smartphone. (That adds up to two occupied hands.)
I recently did a stint, driving a family member to an early train for a month or so. Heading toward the station in the morning is worth your life, with drivers exhibiting white-line fever, fearing they will miss the last available parking space in town. Drivers would speed around you as your passenger disembarked. Many of the drivers do not seem to be making eye contact, or looking at anything in particular. They are just in panic mode.
Is it Ebola, or ISIS, or the stock market, or looming college tuition, or general anxiety that none of us will be able to meet the shocking taxes and expenses of living in a nice Long Island suburb?
It’s not just family members that feel this way. I was waiting to cross a main street the other day, when a 30-ish driver made a dangerous left turn across two lanes of oncoming traffic. The crossing guard and I shook our heads. She grew up in town. Things are different these days, she said.
The crossing guards do their best. The guards based near the post office are great at screaming at dangerous offenders, making them stop and listen to a lecture. Good for them. They are standing up for their town. But they are dealing with drivers who seem to have grown up thinking the rules do not apply to them.
The other day I saw a welcome sight – an unmarked car, parked unobtrusively, with a radar gun outside the driver’s window, monitoring the main street, not far from where a pedestrian got run down and killed a few months ago.
Dropping the speed limit from 30 to 25 would be a good idea, too. But I’m not sure our pre-occupied new breed, on their smartphones, would notice.
"Among the things that have long fascinated people about Jesus and explain his enduring appeal is his method of dialogue and teaching. "He asked a lot of questions and told a lot of stories in the form of parables. In fact, parables form about a third of Jesus’ recorded teachings. The Gospels were written decades after he died, so his questions and parables clearly left a deep impression on those who bore testimony to him....
"Some of Jesus’ questions were rhetorical; others were meant to challenge or even provoke. In some cases, Jesus used questions to parry attacks by religious authorities who set traps for him. In others, he used questions to enter more fully into the lives of others and to help people look at the state of their hearts. He asked people about their fears and their faith. Jesus used questions to free a woman caught in adultery from condemnation and to inquire whether people considered him to be the Messiah. He probed deeply into questions not many had asked before him, like “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
---(Peter Wehner, long-time White House consultant and writer, in the NYT last week about Jesus Christ’s method of teaching by asking questions.)
"Would that I could mention all the illuminating details in this biography, for example, why Wells praised Black Americans so highly, saying, 'I took a mighty liking to these gentle, human, dark-skinned people,' and 'Whatever America has to show in heroic living today, I doubt if she can show anything finer than the quality of the resolve, the steadfast efforts hundreds of black and colored men are making today to live blamelessly, honorably and patiently, getting by themselves what scraps of refinement, beauty and learning they may, keeping their hold on a civilization they are grudged and denied.''
-- "How H.G. Wells Predicted the 20th Century," Charles Johnson, NYT Book Review, Nov. 19, 2021. ***".
...the monsters arrive."
"They come in a deafening, surging swarm, blasting from lawn to lawn and filling the air with the stench of gasoline and death. I would call them mechanical locusts, descending upon every patch of gold in the neighborhood the way the grasshoppers of old would arrive, in numbers so great they darkened the sky, to lay bare a cornfield in minutes. But that comparison is unfair to locusts.
"Grasshoppers belong here. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers are invaders, the most maddening of all the maddening, environment-destroying tools of the American lawn-care industry."
---The great Margaret Renkl, from Nashville, one of my favorite NYT bylines, Oct. 26, 2021.
(She describes our Long Island enclave to every decibel, every stink.)