Jewish World Review
August 7, 2000 / 6 Menachem-Av, 5760
Emily Dickinson's lesson for rude drivers
ONE OF THE PERKS of being a work-at-home mom is not having to drive to the
office. The only keys I need are attached to a keyboard. The only gas I
worry about is my baby's.
So it is with detached bemusement – and sadness -- that I read in the
newspapers about mad-as-hell motorists who race across the nation's
highways and byways. Here in the Beltway, these self-important menaces on
wheels won't even stop for death. A recent Washington Post story described
how area commuters are directing their rage at funeral processions.
"Once, motorists would pull aside and permit funerals to pass," the article
said. "Now, drivers regularly cut them off at intersections rather than
allow them to continue through red lights and weave in and out of
processions instead of pausing, say funeral directors and police. Although
motorists once got out of their cars as a solemn gesture of respect,
funerals are now often accompanied by honking, cursing and gestures of a
most vile kind."
Funeral directors told the Post reporter that this disturbing trend has
surged over the last decade in larger metropolitan areas, despite the use
of hearses, headlights, and placards to signal drivers to slow down. One
pastor who moved from Nashville to a D.C. suburb of Virginia recounted a
frightening near-accident during his first funeral procession in the
region. "There's a lack of civility, and people are selfish and determined
to have their way when they want it," the Rev. Mike Tune said.
Police escorts are routinely ignored – and often become targets of
impatient drivers. Officer Mike Nicholson, of the Fairfax, Va. motorcycle
squad, told the Post: "This is a busy town, and people are on their own
agenda. People are always in a hurry and just can't stand to wait for two
Hurry, hurry, hurry. Is the next appointment, or deadline, or board
meeting, or cocktail party so utterly important that you'd mow down
mourners to get there? There's more than a mere lack of civility at work
among the movers and shakers who push others aside to live life in the
shoulder lane. The problem is a lack of humility.
You are not indispensable. Your time is a gift, not an entitlement. Get
over yourselves. Your next frenzied road trip could be your last, and the
world will still spin without you.
In one of her most famous poems, Emily Dickinson gives a rear-view mirror
lesson that rude road-ragers should take to heart: Slow down. This life is
a pit stop on a much longer journey. Dickinson's narrator in "Because I
Could Not Stop For Death" speaks from centuries beyond the grave and looks
back peacefully at the stages of her life:
Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me
The Carriage held but just Ourselves
We slowly drove
He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess -- in the Ring
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain
We passed the Setting Sun
Or rather - He passed Us
The Dews drew quivering and chill
For only Gossamer, my Gown
My Tippet - only Tulle
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground
The Roof was scarcely visible
The Cornice - in the Ground
Since then - 'tis Centuries - and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity.
I realize nobody has time to read poetry anymore, much less savor it. So
here's the drive-by message for all you red-faced, foul-mouthed,
fast-food-chomping, cell-phone-wielding, lane-weaving commuters out there:
Learn to sit back and enjoy the ride here on Earth before death's carriage
takes you away. There are no U-turns on time's eternal
JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate