Thursday, December 3, 2015

New Drivers, Bullies and Me

My young nieces live in a former crown colony: British Columbia. As New drivers when they drive with me they are required by law to put a big letter N on the car. It's magnetic like those oversized 'support the troops' ribbons.

While visiting I realized I was "supposed to" do "the uncle thing" and give driving advice but—whoa!—Call me humble but that feels too much like trying to advise high school kids on algebra. My girls are fresh from driving classes. Maybe I did have good driving habits once, but as they say, "only the good die young."

So you can picture my niece driving us along a well paved highway up the river past a ranch called 132 Mile Ranch, past a cluster of houses at a wee government road sign 140 Mile House, past a strip village labeled 150 Mile House, (I'm not making this up) past Sugarcane Reserve and on to the "city" of Williams Lake. (It has a downtown) Along the way I sternly asked, "Are you speeding?"

"Everyone speeds along here Uncle."

"When you're with your Uncle Sean you don't speed." I was only doing what the driving schools do. They know that people may tend to degenerate once they get a licence to thrill. But when teaching, what else can you do? Teachers and uncles have a duty not to rush to be cynical.

The best "uncle" thing I could do was disclose about the time I phoned the "cop shop" to say, "You guys drive a squad car eight hours a day; perhaps you could advise me. When I turn I always go into the 'proper' lane. Am I being naive?"

"No sir, you keep doing what you're doing. Otherwise one day you will get in trouble for sure." (My niece hastened to tell me, "You're supposed to go curb to curb.") I told her about the time, a few weeks after my call: "... So this jackass comes out of nowhere, trying to break the land speed record, and nearly kills us both! Good thing I had turned into my proper lane..." I told the girl that the cop I talked to would know about "being naive" as cops are known to bend some rules themselves. "I know, Uncle, I've seen them." Yes, the police and I have a lot in common.

I failed to tell my girls the most significant highway statistic of all: The average motorist self-reports being an above average driver. Such a disconnect from reality. We older folks get to thinking we are entitled to our idiosyncratic driving habits. Actually, we're just idiots. Some, like my brother, even yell curses habitually from behind the wheel—that's OK with me, since it can't hurt him. (Not unless he forgets to keep his windows rolled up.) My concern is for those who yell or use verbal abuse on the sidewalk or indoors. Speaking of such abuse, it's time to "segue." (slide to another topic)

Before me is the book Teen Torment subtitled Overcoming Verbal Abuse at Home and at School by Patricia Evans.

Ms Evans offers a fascinating take on abusers: they are spellbound. To do her theory justice I would have to plagiarize her at length. Instead let me over-over simplify by saying that abusers act as if they are "under a spell" of private unreality. Hence bullies go after those who are real before bullying conformists.

Here is my made up example: If an abuser is spellbound to say, "You are stupid" then it does you no good to try to use reasoning. Don't reply that you won a Hollywood quiz show, and don't pull your hometown newspaper clipping out of your hip pocket to prove it. A spellbound person is enraged by reality. He won't thank you for the truth. So if I pull into a roadhouse (tavern) and that spellbound jackass is there, well, let's hope he's a lot smaller than I am, because it's no use taking my driver's manual from my pocket to educate him. Better to invite him into the parking lot and then talk with my fists.

Sometimes, perhaps, I might possibly put a spell on myself. Maybe one day I go 10 kilometers per hour over the speed limit while claiming that everyone else should go that fast too. And maybe on another day I go 15 kph over the limit feeling entitled to go faster than you. And maybe one day as you make a nice legal left turn I will turn behind you into the slow lane and floor my gas pedal so that you can't move over and you have to miss your turn off and — whoops! — OK, so that last is surely a lie. I could never be such a jerk.

And I can never kid myself about whether I am speeding: I drive a manual transmission and so my ear is pretty good. Meanwhile, I'm sure that lots of people who drive automatics who don't even think to glance at their speedometers. They probably drive guilt-free, horribly oblivious, "judging" their speed by whatever "feels good." Such a disconnect.

Even if I drive only 5 kph over the limit I would do well to keep a touch of guilt, and a trace of humility, rather than being the Center of the World. In the end my only sure way to de-spell myself is... to say our children are our future. If I drive as if my nieces are with me then I can't go wrong. But then I can't speed, either.

So that's my plan. Is this being "too" honest?... Nah, we will always desperately need some honest drivers to keep the rest of us from behaving like swine.

Sean sharing the world with other people Crawford

footnote: I wonder if leaders of the Islamist republic are spellbound? Enraged by real people?


  1. I just got my "just desserts" ticket for speeding - 74 km in a 50 km zone. No point disputing it as I was doing it. Also no point in complaining that I was just following others who were doing that speed. My only consolation is that it wasn't a 50 km construction zone or I'd be paying a whole lot more for my arrogant driving.

  2. I'm knocking on wood as I say this...
    I've never received a speeding ticket. Why is that? Because I have precious cargo in the back. ;-)

  3. In my mind's eye I can see your precious cargo. My actual photo was lost when I had my macbook repaired, but the memory remains.