Vehicular Prescience

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“There’s a lot of shit you have to put up with when you’re driving.” – George Carlin

This one is for all the drivers out there. If you have listened to What Am I Doing in New Jersey?, George Carlin’s 1988 HBO special, then you will have some idea of the things one must be cognizant of while driving; some of those things shall be herein addressed. Should the reader be a pedestrian or become a pedestrian at any point, may the following words be instrumental in the pursuit of a harmonious and safe relationship with automobiles, and their easily perturbed occupants.

I suppose that I should probably inform the reader about my experience, more aptly, trials and tribulations with automobiles. First, an aside. The original working title of this post was: “On Fucking Pedestrians.” For quite some time, I thought it was a clever title and I would have thrown in some jokes about sex and then reminded the reader that the post would not pertain to sex at all. Although I am content with my new title, the draft on my computer bears the original title. Well, enough of that.

I’ve been driving for the greater portion of nine years and, in that time span, it is safe to say that I have driven several hundred thousand miles; I can’t be more precise because I never kept a log of exact mileage. At any rate, succinctly put: I’ve seen A LOT. I have, by no means, seen everything that could be observed by human eyes on the road, but enough where I have a firm understanding of driving. I delivered pizza professionally for almost seven years (if anyone was wondering, I laughed heartily as I typed professionally). I accrued most of my mileage during this time. I was also beset by innumerable automotive troubles which only served to fill the coffers of the cabal known as the automotive mechanic industry. Okay, admittedly, that last part sounds like conspiracy. I can attest that the mechanics I dealt with were in no way insidious (at least overtly) and it could have been said of some that they had good intentions. However, good intentions never seemed to diminish the cost of parts and labor. Thankfully, I didn’t have to bear these costs alone. Thanks, dad!

You’ll have to pardon the mild digressions. I have to keep them in check because I sometimes love digressions a little too much. Now, where were we? Ah, yes—the good driver that I was—I mean am. I can fortunately state that I have neither found myself grievously injured by any accident nor have I been the cause of any accident. In each case I found myself as the passenger. To friends and family: I’m just stating the facts.

I, like most adults in the First World, have a solid understanding of the automobile, how it functions and how to operate it, the latter being significantly more important for this post. As many drivers will be familiar, there is often a ton of shit in between one and one’s destination. Thus, it behooves oneself to have, what I call, ‘vehicular prescience.’ It is not really prescience, it’s more akin to prediction (and ‘vehicular prediction’ sounds a bit silly; prescience makes it seem like a gift which is very apt considering that few individuals possess it). Vehicular prescience is used by a driver to “see” where another vehicle or pedestrian will be based on movement—or lack thereof—so that one can avoid collisions.

Now, this “gift” is akin to prediction because of the following: (1) prescience, so far as we know, does not exist; (2) the expected outcome of any situation is oftentimes not the one that actually occurs—and when it comes to automobiles the consequences can unfortunately be fatal, if not financially fatal; and (3) one actually has to pay attention to the road because prescience doesn’t exist (refer to point 1). My conception of vehicular prescience is related to situation awareness, whereby one attempts to actively perceive their immediate vicinity and respond accordingly.

How does one acquire vehicular prescience? I believe that answer is simple—pay attention. That’s it. This life of modernity has placed great emphasis on multitasking in a mad scramble to achieve as many things as possible, the primary goal: accolades and wealth. One has only but to look at one’s colleagues to see the pressures a society of haste has on people. Thus, it should be no surprise that people have a hard time focusing one’s attention on a singular task, driving being one such example.

How many times has the reader encountered a driver whose face was buried in a cell phone? Or a driver applying some type of beauty product? Or a driver that was enjoying a three-course meal? Or a driver admiring themselves in their rear-view mirror? Or performing all the aforementioned actions at the same time? The more and more one drives, the more one comes to realize that George Carlin may have been correct about the existence of the Automotive Harassment Squad.

In my experience I have learned that some pedestrians fear no earthly vehicle. Pedestrians have jumped, walked, sprinted, and vaulted in front of my SUV more times than I can faithfully recall (none of which could be blamed on me). I have seen pedestrians take great risks when they travel among automobiles, exhibiting a relatively high degree of recklessness. The small number of pedestrians I have encountered often take the stance, “they’ll stop for me,” or “they won’t hit me ‘cuz I have the Right of Way.” Any person with an understanding of momentum will surely agree that such stances are quite foolhardy.

However, I don’t mean to disabuse pedestrians. Drivers are equally as foolish and reckless individuals whose mistakes often result in lasting morbidity, and even death. I’m sure I don’t have to educate the reader on the effects drugs and alcohol have on people, let alone drivers. And it would seem that laws don’t deter drivers from making terrible decisions. The news serves as a daily reminder that intoxicated and inebriated drivers are sadly ubiquitous (and quite often young. I shan’t speculate further on this…yet). Thus, I believe that it is up to all of us to ensure pedestrians and drivers exercise extreme caution, for there is much shit one must put up with.

I understand that I haven’t covered all that one encounters while driving; it is quite an exhaustive list, far beyond what I’m currently willing to tackle. As for helpful suggestions: the way I see it, if I have to insult the reader with instructions detailing how drive a vehicle, or how to avoid one, then perhaps little hope exists for humanity. In ending, I bequeath the dear reader some questions, some food for thought: Is there a panacea for the contagion of obliviousness that befalls motorists and pedestrians alike? Should drivers be more careful of pedestrians or should pedestrians be more aware of drivers?

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