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.
"The day after my 80th birthday, which overflowed with good wishes, surprises and Covid-safe celebrations, I awoke feeling fulfilled and thinking that whatever happens going forward, I’m OK with it. My life has been rewarding, my bucket list is empty, my family is thriving, and if everything ends tomorrow, so be it.
"Not that I expect to do anything to hasten my demise. I will continue to exercise regularly, eat healthfully and strive to minimize stress. But I’m also now taking stock of the many common hallmarks of aging and deciding what I need to reconsider."
--Jane E. Brody, my pal in the NYT newsroom, oh, a few years back, in the Personal Health column, Sept. 13, 2021.
"People have said to me, ‘You’re fully vaccinated. Why are you being so careful?’” said Dr. Robert M. Wachter, professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “I’m still in the camp of I don’t want to get Covid. I don’t want to get a breakthrough infection.”
---Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times, Aug. 16, 2021.