See no evil

I hopped into the car for a quick errand to the store. I didn’t have to drive far. But just a few blocks from my home, I encountered a roadblock: an accident had closed a major intersection. Unfortunately, there have been several accidents there over the years. My guess is that most of the incidents have been the result of people turning left into oncoming traffic, as both cars try to beat the red light.

I turned right to take a long detour. Drivers coming the other direction had nowhere to bail out, and the line of cars was growing. But suddenly, a shiny new Tesla made a U-turn in front of me, jerked into my lane, then tailgated the next car until he could get free and roar off in another direction. And a minute later, I stopped at a red light only to watch another driver sail on through.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to paint myself as the safest or most talented driver in the world. (Okay, I do think I’m above average in that department, but surveys suggest that most everyone else does too. That’s another story for another time.) And I know all about impatience behind the wheel.

But it made me wonder: how many times do we come across accidents, and the only reaction we have is to be annoyed at the inconvenience?

Recently, on vacation, my wife and I were delayed for 45 minutes on a winding mountain road as an accident was cleared ahead. An elderly driver with a carload of passengers had crossed the dividing line into oncoming traffic; no one knows why. The resulting head-on collision caused a chain reaction. Amazingly, no one was killed.

When we passed the scene of the collision, the victims had already been evacuated by ambulance or helicopter. There was nothing left but shattered glass and crumpled steel, and lines of cars passed by in slow and somber procession. But as soon as we were clear, the accident was forgotten and we were on our merry way.

We regulachimpanzee-hand-over-eyes-see-no-evilrly come across the wreckage of life in all its forms, the consequences of poor decisions, hastiness, arrogance, inattention, or impatience. We pass by, gawping with morbid curiosity. But we learn nothing, not even a cautionary reminder to be more careful or courteous ourselves. It’s someone else’s problem, not ours.

Right. And that’s probably what today’s victims thought the last time they passed the wreckage of someone else’s life. Too bad for you. But that won’t happen to me. Meanwhile, I’ve got things to do.

Hopefully, it won’t take getting into a wreck ourselves to teach us the humility we need