September 13, 2007

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if the newspaper publisher was arrested for road rage? Would the readers cut me any slack if they knew that my fervor was not the result of being cut off by another driver, being forced to follow a slower traveler or some other perceived injustice?

I am human, and these things do tend to draw my ire on occasion. Yet none of these problems provoke me into fits of fury. A couple mumbled curse words under my breath are really the only results such transgressions provoke me into. However, while behind the wheel I have witnessed a growing number of crimes that have incited this normally laid back editor to near road rage.

The first is fueled by either being inattentive or impatient. Those are the only two reasons I can imagine someone would ignore a school bus stop sign.

I realize that we are often either on our way to work, or heading home for the day when this situation arises, but the traffic signals are there for a reason, the safety of the children entering or exiting the bus.

Dealing with a busload of kids is trying enough, so we motorists should do our best not to add to the driver's stress load by running their stop signs. Being a minute or two late for work is far better than a costly ticket, or even worse, living with the results of an accident.

It never fails, when I am stopped behind a school bus on the highway while it is loading or unloading a student(s), the car in front of me or the truck behind me commits the one act that pushes me over the edge. In a thoughtless moment, the motorist or a passenger shows total lack of respect for me and every other citizen of the community as they toss a piece of litter out the window.

I don't engage the other vehicle in a high-speed chase or fantasize about drive-by shootings. But I would love to haul a trash can around in my pick-up bed, stopping each time I witnessed littering taking place to scoop up the evidence. Of course my motives are not pure. I wouldn't be doing it to keep the town clean. Instead I would be collecting ammunition, so that I could take said trash to each lawbreaker's home, open up their bedroom window and throw their garbage back where it belongs.

Anyone that has seen my car, knows that I am no clean freak. From time to time one can find soda bottles, candy wrappers, fast food bags…. (an entire inventory would take up way too much space). If it wasn't for the wonderful service I get from K & M Automotive detailing my vehicle on a regular basis, I might be in trouble. But even if every auto detailer in the world closed down, and I was unable to change my lazy ways of not taking my trash in with me when I parked the truck, I still would not knowingly litter.

To me the action is a slap in the face of every other person on this planet. When you roll down the window and toss out that wrapper, you basically are turning the world into one great big trash can. Would you dump your garbage can in the neighbor's driveway, or empty the lawn mower clippings in their living room? No, so just because it's only one little can or one tiny cigarette butt, and it is in the middle of nowhere on some isolated road, doesn't make it right.

I'm not a smoker, so anything I say about the habit is going to be perceived as persecution of those that choose to do so. But I would have to believe that plenty of tobacco users would agree that, a cigarette butt is no less a piece of litter than a beer bottle or a Big Mac container.

I'm a fireman, so I realize the dangers of extinguishing said butt by tossing it in a trash can. I also realize that storing it in one's pocket might also prove dangerous. However, that really shouldn't be the concern of a storeowner who has chosen to observe a no-smoking policy. Usually one doesn't even need to look for the sign that says no smoking, all they have to do is peer at the sidewalk in front of the place, where the littered cigarette butts tell the story.

According to the environmental group Keep America Beautiful, cigarette butts are the #1 littered item. I believe that most vehicles still come with an ashtray, they should if they include a cigarette lighter right? Said ashtray generally is located on the dashboard, immediately to the right of the driver. It can't take any more energy to open that ashtray than it does to roll down the window. So why do people insist on littering that butt on the street instead of extinguishing it on their own property in the vehicle's receptacle?

I'll probably never understand. I just hope I don't have to hire a defense expert to try to explain it at my road rage case.

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