I’ve been thinking more about dying lately.
There’s nothing wrong with my health, but the weekly dose of tragedy we have seen here this summer is a reminder of one’s mortality.
There was a kid on a bike, a waitress driving home late at night, a double homicide that included a little girl and then a 16-year-old this past week riding in a friend’s car.
It’s a reminder that if you are really worried about your safety, it’s not terrorism we have to worry about, it’s driving to work in the morning.
We don’t value life nearly as much as we should, or we wouldn’t talk on our phones while driving, or gun the gas when the light turns yellow, or try a recreational drug for the first time.
All of these senseless tragedies are preventable.
Years ago, after a string of underage drinking deaths, I started a scrapbook. Painstakingly, I cut out the newspaper clippings of young people who had made bad choices that cost them their lives. It filled up quickly.
My reasons were selfish.
I had a 6-year-old at the time, and I was trying to figure out how I could jolt a future 16-year-old’s mind.
The day he got his license 10 years later, I made him sit down and read the scrapbook. I made him look at the photos of the crumpled cars and the teenagers carrying their classmate to the grave.
It had the effect I hoped. He is 21 and still around.
He has survived all those seven-hour drives to college and back while I sit and watch the clock and wait for him to acknowledge he has arrived again.
I’d like to think the scrapbook made him think twice about drinking and driving, or proving his manhood by driving fast and being reckless.
I survived and I made all those mistakes when I was younger. Some of us are luckier than others.
I’m starting to wonder now if all of us could use the scrapbook as a reminder of the consequences of one lapse in judgment.
Maybe then, we would keep the phone out of reach.
Maybe then, we would drive the speed limit, or at least just 5 miles over it.
Maybe then, we would realize that rushing from place to place really doesn’t save us much time.
I drive a little car around town. I like the way it handles on corners, the gas mileage and the opportunity to squeeze into just about any parking place.
My wife dislikes it because she thinks it is dangerous.
She believes I would never survive even a small traffic accident.
I laugh and tell her she doesn’t have to worry because I don’t hit things.
I guess that’s how we all think.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that being a good driver is not enough. I’ve slowed down, stopped rushing and try to hit the brakes every time I see a yellow light. I drive in the slow lane on the Northway and let all the other cars fly past me.
I now believe driving around town is a chess match where you have to be thinking one step ahead of the rushed, careless drivers around you.
There is no shortage of cellphone terrorists, tailgaters and the folks who not only blow through the yellow light, but the red light as well.
I see it daily.
I have had too many close calls.
Accidents happen and people make mistakes, but it is most disturbing when it is the innocent bystander who pays the price.