Tag Archives: driving

Driving Miss Distracted

24 Apr


My dad loved to drive. I think for him nothing represented freedom more than being able to get into a car and go…and he loved to go anywhere at any time. And back in those days, driving was just about all one could do in a car. You got behind the wheel, maybe opened the window (because air conditioning was a fancy extra in those days) and put on the radio (and there weren’t many stations so you didn’t have to worry about changing it all the time) and off you went.

And my dad loved the radio as a driving companion and we could always tell when he was just about home because the sound of his humming (he never sang along) preceded the noise of his car  as he turned the corner into our street. (and cars were noisy back then too)

Now however, things have noticeably changed when it comes to cars. They have become multi-task space stations for inner space travelers. Does anyone ever open a car window anymore? Even the dogs who travel with their owners demand climate control these days.

And have you noticed how taking out one’s phone is now a mandatory  prelude to the happy motorist’s opening of the car door?

Now-a-days when I’m driving in the car I not only pay attention to the road but I also try to pay attention to what the driver in front of me is focusing on… just in case I need to anticipate something I haven’t anticipated before.

I have seen drivers chatting on their phones, dialing their phones, programming their phones, texting on their phones, tweeting, reading their Nooks, doing crossword puzzles on their Kindles, fighting with their multi-disc CD players, watching DVDs, Searching for the proper station on their 100 channel pre-programmed Satellite radio… writing notes, putting on makeup, styling hair, Blackberrying (is that a verb now?) Multi tasking with iPads and iPods while balancing a Starbucks’ double shot mocha latte.

Yesterday, I sat behind an automobile after the light turned green for so long I swear the driver could have been baking a casserole!

All I can say is thank god that whenever confined to a small space, looking out of the front window is still a common human habit… and something that most drivers still like to do! Yikes! Where would  we all be without curiosity and the basic instinct to wonder where we’re going?


A Highway Is A Wonderful Thing

22 Apr

A highway is indeed a wonderful thing…All those rules and regulations laid out in neat white stripes and signs and speed limits, yet,  even though the individual  might wish to dare a little more for speed or to stray outside the legal boundaries…by some small miracle we all obey them…  and we manage to do this while each driving our own 2-ton machine, at maddening speeds and side by side with all the others…but still we can each feel the freedom of the open road before us.

And whenever someone does break the rules they must do it right there in front of us for all to witness; whether moving too fast or weaving in and out of traffic or cruising too slowly or not bothering to use the proper signals…their infractions are their truest confessionals.

If we so choose we can curse or yell or damn them to hell from inside the privacy of our own fortress of solitude or we can use the universal language of the common  car horn to communicate our  cacophonous epithets…and who better than a seasoned and experienced veteran of the steering wheel knows how to make that horn sing with righteous outrage?

And so we cruise these freeways by the thousand millions aware that it is among the most dangerous things that we can do…but even so we stay within  the lines and obey the rules… and if and when we do have, what we almost always call, an “accident”, we know that it is most probably because someone, perhaps even ourselves, wasn’t obeying those rules or was driving without the manners that a civilization requires, or without the sobering seriousness that any life lived so intimately and dangerously among others demands.

Yet even though 211 million of us expect to do it safely each time we take the wheel we also realize that having 10 million accidents a year is so far about the best our social order can do…

but still off we go to do it again, and again… and always inside the lines and at the legal limits…and in accordance with the rules of the road…

Yes a highway is a wonderful and most curious thing.

Why Kids Don’t Pass the Basic Skills Test

28 Jan


Why is it that so many kids in our public schools can’t pass a basic skills test?

Many kids just don’t care. Many kids just don’t want to. Better yet, they don’t want to have to prove it…not after 12 years of 180 days of study and lecture and practice and test taking and homework and notes and did I say 12 years??? They just went to school for 12 years and now, after having passed all of their required classes and met all other graduation requirements asked of them by their local school district, they still have to prove to the state that they were there and that all of the teachers and all of the administrators and guidance counselors and everyone else who says that they are ready to move on aren’t lying.

Of course those of us who make up the 70% of Americans who were raised to be anal retentive are more than happy to sit through 9 hours of testing over 3 days to prove that we know what you already know we know because, well because we’re anal retentive and we always do what we’re told. We just spent 12 years doing this crap! Now may I have a test please? May I have another?

But there is a percentage of children out there who have developed personalities that just don’t see any reward in proving it over and over, again and again, and certainly not in a marathon exam of tedious questions and answers. So they don’t take the test seriously. They fall asleep. They pick any old answers and skip the long winded and open ended questions and skimp on the essays just to get it over with as fast as they can. It’s the Pledge of Allegiance all over again. What does all of that repetition get you? How much rote learning will make you a patriot?

Many students just don’t see the logic of 12 years of schooling vs. 9 hours of testing especially when it is the 9 hours of testing that is most important and that will get them the diploma, not the 12 years. If the tests are so important then why not let children take them whenever they are ready? My own children could have graduated high school when they were 12 if that were the case. Yet students are asked to plow on through school until they are 17 years old and then Wham! Test time! Why do they have to do this? Because we have a government bureaucracy that demands standardized testing. And why do they demand this? Could it be because they are bureaucrats and that’s what bureaucrats do?

Students find standardized tests boring. They find most things that require their attention for more than 10 seconds boring but especially testing and tests. Asking a student to sit quietly for three hours and concentrate is like asking them to sit quietly without listening to their iPods for three minutes. Impossible! And many students never even get to the questions. No child left behind? They leave themselves behind: utterly and completely bored out of their minds. Give them a story to read about Dick and Jane or some other equally mundane 1950s characters or topics and they are guaranteed to be asleep in 10 minutes…boring, boring, booooooring!

Our students live in the 21st century but our standardized tests shall forever linger, as the students would say, “back-in-the-day”. I’d like to give all of the members of Congress and all of the elected members of all of the state governments a 9 hour exam on the Constitution of the United States and Federal and State laws and Robert’s Rules of Order and what ethics and honesty and trust mean and I’d like to give them a Basic Skills test too, including grammar and math and science and health. Then I’d like to make the test results public and have every person who did not pass, step down from office and return all of the money they had earned while doing a job that they were not qualified for. We could call it, “No Candidate Left Behind”.

Let teachers and schools and local boards of education do their jobs and let students who complete 12 long hard years of schooling, graduate with a high school diploma. Do you have any idea how much money we’ll all save in taxes if we all just go back to doing that? Those bureaucrats, who would never consent (For quite obvious reasons) to taking the test that I have just proposed, know…and it’s a fortune.

But let’s “be real” and assume that we are going to have to continue to give our public school students these tedious and ridiculous tests. How do we get kids to pass their high school exit exams whether it is The Regents, The High School Proficiency Assessment or whatever you want to call it? How do we get them to prove that they have actually learned something and have mastered basic skills in Mathematics and English after spending 12 years in school?

Well now let’s think about this for a minute…there is one test that everyone takes and everyone passes. Can you name it? It’s the Driver’s Test! Both the road test and written exam are taken and passed by virtually all who take it, and before they leave high school!

How is it possible that teenagers who cannot put pen to paper to prove that they can read with comprehension or cipher with the comparative skill of Lassie, can pass a test that allows them a license to operate a 2 ton vehicle at break neck speeds across interstate lines? And the Driver’s test is not that easy either! Applicants must score 70% or better on a written test containing anywhere from 25-50 questions. And get this! They also have to take a practical test! They have to actually drive the car! With an examiner in the passenger’s seat! Who’s an officer of the law! And they pass! Almost Everyone! You, me, Forest Gump! Who doesn’t get their license to drive?? And are the streets filled with unskilled drivers and haphazard carnage? Well, yes, but you see where I’m going here. They pass the test. They prove to the state that they know the rules and understand the regulations and can put the key in the ignition and even define ignition for that matter! And they know what yield means! And they can calculate mileage and read road signs and Parallel Park! And they study for this test in school and at home and on their own time because it is of paramount importance to them that they pass!

Yet these same 17 year old geniuses can’t pass a Basic Skills Test in Reading and Math after 12 years of study! Drivers test: 87-100%. Basic skills: 60-80%. Prove to me that you can do the most dangerous thing on Earth; (operating an automobile in traffic) everyone passes! Prove to me you’re a little bit smarter than a chimpanzee? 40% fail! How is this possible???

In the meantime…

You want to drive a car?

Then graduate from high school.

You drop out? YOU WALK! Problem solved!

Happy Motoring

25 Jan


Sometimes I do suppose deregulation can be a good thing…I guess.

Today while driving along the Garden State Parkway in NJ I fell into one of those driving lapses where you just sort of drone along in traffic, following the crowd of automobiles like just another fish in school when I slowly realized that most other cars were whizzing past me.

I assumed that I must have slowed down  while in my reverie and just wasn’t keeping up so I looked at my speedometer and much to my surprise the needle was hugging 80MPH! And here I was the fish out of school, the slow poke in the group.

Wow, I thought, how fast is everyone else going? Used to be that driving from the Jersey Shore to the New York State border at the federal, gas saving, because American needs to be energy independent, speed of 55MPH was a good 2 hours or more; a veritable road trip of tedium and endurance. Now an hour and change will get you there.

Cruising the highways today is more like playing a video game than it is like going for a drive, especially when one has to always be on the ready to dodge the occasional old timer who appears like a lumbering asteroid doing his or her patriotic ole’ 55 in the center lane.

I must admit that getting to where you want to go so much more quickly does make life that much more enjoyable. I know we have technology to thank for that. Back in the old days the car my dad let me drive would have exploded at these speeds!

However, everything has it darker sides too. We’re gonna need more oil and lots of it! And of course eventually the government will probably put an orbiting “Death Star” of a traffic satellite that will tweet me a googled photo of my car in relative position to the earth’s rotation along with a fine electronically charged to my easy pass and the message that I was doing 105MPH in a 65MPH zone for the last 95 minutes so that will be $2085 dollars in fines please!

Until then happy motoring…and please drive safely!

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