Sunday, July 25, 2010

Walk, Don't Run

The firemen think somebody snubbed their cigarette out in the old wood planter box, filled with dirt, but also apparently with peat moss or something that holds in the heat. What apparently sat smoldering for hours went up in flames much much later, 1:00 a.m. to be exact. The firemen showed up along with several neighbors in the small community area we share behind our 4-unit apartment, where we all keep our BBQ’s and the trash barrels, to put out the fire in the box that had burned and charred a good 6-7 boards of the fence that it was next to. It could’ve been much worse.

A few days ago I was sitting at a stop light, where legally we can make a right turn on a red light, that is, if all is clear. I looked to my right, over to my left, and didn’t think to look right again. As I put my foot to the accelerator and lurched forward, I slammed on my break just as quickly. A startled small Hispanic man was just beginning to walk in front of me. He was in the crosswalk with the little lit up man walking on the traffic light. My heart stopped. I waved at him and mouthed the word “sorry” with my face in that kind of scrunched up – “God, my fault, I really messed up-so sorry-" kind of way - he just waved back, put his head down and kept walking.

I drove off with my knees shaking and my head spinning just from the thought of what could have happened more than what had actually happened. The thought that one careless mistake (a cigarette not completely put out, not applying Santa's checking it twice advice) could injure or take the life of someone or many people and change the life of the person who caused this careless mistake forever. One careless mistake, mistakes that we all make on a regular basis. One step we didn’t see as we were descending the staircase, one overlooked stop sign hidden by the branches of a large oak tree, one pot handle we didn’t turn away from the front of the stove only to get bumped by someone passing by, scalding hot water or hot oil, the list and possibilities go on and on.

This isn’t written to depress or look on the dark side of things, it is merely written with the urgency of paying attention. Being present, noticing your surroundings. We are in such a hurry all the time. People texting while they walk, texting while they drive. Would you walk around town with a book in front of your face?  It has been reported lately about the rise of "accidents" involving people who are walking and texting at the same time.  People walking into streetlamps, utility poles, parked cars, other people and even falling down manholes!! We have all seen people reading while they drive, their reading material propped up on the steering wheel, or using their visor or rear view mirror to apply mascara. Things that make talking on a cell phone seem like childs play. Why can’t we just drive anymore. This is not a question, rather a simple plea.

It isn't just the multi-tasking while driving, it is the constant need to be connected.  People dining out with their cell phones placed alongside their place settings "just in case" - always feeling that we can't wait until we are home to make a return phone call to friends, the need to check our social email hourly instead of perhaps once a day, adding new "friends" to our Facebook account for popularity's sake instead of real connections. We can hardly find enough time to call or the hours to spend with our few real friends and now we've added the pressure of communicating with a couple hundred or so more, most that mean very little to us . I trust you get my point.

The two incidents that I have mentioned (the fire and the almost hitting a pedestrian) happened within days of each other during this past week. This to me is a true slap in the face sign. Wake up. Pay attention. Keep focused. Occasionally turn off the phone, occasionally shut down the computer.  Slow down. Eat at the table. Pretty clear isn’t it?

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