Driven to distraction

10 05 2010

A friend of mine claims to be an excellent driver despite a propensity she has toward being distracted in every aspect of her life, somewhat of a shocker on the face of it. Being predisposed to distraction myself, this statement made me think. I’ve come to the conclusion that, for two reasons, she’s probably right.

I did it my way

I’ll speak for myself here and leave her out of this.

Firstly, knowing full well that I’m easily distracted, I recognize the process when it happens. For example, I’ll drop something on the floor of the car. My first reaction is to immediately reach for it. My second and almost instant reaction is to remember who I am and recognize what I’m doing. And then I stop. I check to make sure there is nothing that I’m forgetting, the school bus ahead of me, pedestrians at a crosswalk, my next turn coming up etc. Only when I’m satisfied that all is well, will I proceed with my distraction. By this time, I’m concentrating on getting my distraction out of the way. I’m aware of it’s character and ability to lead me astray and I’m not going to be led.

Practice makes perfect

Secondly, having been prone to distraction for more than fifty years, I’m actually better prepared to deal with surprises than most. I experience them on a daily basis. “Isn’t the colour of that cow unusual?” can easily precede “Whoa, this is the wrong side of the road!” “I have to remember to tell everyone about that neat tree.” could be the last thing that goes through my mind just prior to “Did that sign say ‘Bridge Out’?” These things that, in others would induce panic, are met by me in a level headed and calm sort of way. I can assess and react with a usually positive outcome. The previous dramatizations, obviously, are over dramatizations for the purpose of making my point, so I hope you’re getting the point, rather than getting the phone to call the authorities on me.

I’ve been driving since I was eight. (shhhh don’t tell anyone, I was raised in a different time and place, a rural Ontario farm in the sixties and seventies) Having been a driver for more than forty years and having been prone to distraction for longer than that, I do much of my driving automatically. I can write music or create poetry, while zipping along the road safely and successfully. One of my greatest distractions is story telling. I tell stories to myself and the guests de jour in my head. And I tell them out loud, when I’m alone. When real people are with me I talk to them instead. The people in my head usually are offended at being ignored and leave. They always come back though and never hold a grudge. It’s like they don’t remember being ignored. Probably because they’re in my head, eh?

Hold the phone

I never talk on the phone while I’m driving. I didn’t before it was illegal. But the invention of Bluetooth headsets has saved me a lot of embarrassment. I can chatter away to my virtual friends and everyone thinks I’m on a call. I can head out in my car and forget to bring my phone with me, but, as long as I have my headset I don’t care. I don’t need real phone calls, I like the people in my head better. They always agree with me and never ask questions I don’t have an answer for.

Bumper cars

So much for my driving. How’s about my friend who is always paying attention but drives like he’s the only one with a car on a deserted island. My favourite ride with him was coming home from a game of golf when he quipped to someone shaking their fist at him “If you don’t like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk.” I like riding with him, people watch out for us.

Zen and the art of crosswalks

And speaking of people and streets, what’s up with pedestrians and their holistic approach to jaywalking. They step out onto the street without looking and as they become aware of you they turn their heads away. The look on their faces says “I know I saw a car coming at me, but if I don’t look directly at it, it can’t hurt me. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was just my imagination. There really was no car. I am one with the universe and so is the imaginary car, it will not hurt me. It will NOT hurt me. It WILL not hurt me!” Perhaps they’d do well to realize that I’m out there driving.

True Confessions of a distracted driver

Yes, I’m not the best driver in the world, but I think I’d rank above average because of my awareness of my flaws. They help me watch out for those who would try to prove me unworthy of the privilege of driving, a privilege I have earned. I do confess, though, to being less attentive when I have passengers. I think I should be allowed to rely on them to pick up the slack of keeping an eye on the road while they’re there distracting me. I can’t do everything, you know. I’ve got the radio station to change. And hey, did you see that lady walking the duck.

Stay tuned next week when we may or may not discuss a holistic approach to driving on a street with jaywalkers “I will not hit those people.” “I WILL not hit those people. I will NOT hit those people, I will not HIT those people.”…

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