17 March, 2011

Life Lesson #187: I Am One of THOSE People

It snowed again today.  I know it's early yet, but I had my heart set on no more snow - move along now, let's just get right into the warming and the melting and soon the rebirth and the growing.  But it snowed again today.  The reality is that it'll probably snow at least once or twice more before it's safe to assume that Spring is underway.

Between now and then, we have to live with people as a whole who should be absolutely *fabulous* at driving on slick, wet, snowy, icy roads.  But somehow, from one snowfall to the next, some of us seem to forget that our roads are slick and some places have deep ruts; that 4-wheel drive is great for helping you go, but not so great for helping you stop suddenly or avoid the car in front of you that's braking; that sometimes impatience can cost you more time and money than just accepting that you're going to be a late (for me, later than normal).

There were at least two cars in the ditch, and one banged up and rolled on its side as I was driving in to work today.  By the time I was passing, the people were already gone - just the tow trucks and police rerouting traffic.  And the paraphernalia of someone's life strewn along the ground where it had fallen out of the busted up window.  I hope they were wearing seatbelts.  I hope that any bodily harm was minimal.

Traffic was crawling by - as is usual at the scene of an accident.  And I have to admit that I was fine with the slow speed.  I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but I was glad of the slowness because it gave me a chance to examine the scene before driving by.  This same scenario happened to me earlier this winter - stuck in slow-moving traffic for someone who was in some kind of hurry and wasn't driving for the road conditions - only it was on my way home and it was just before my highway exit.  I decided, as I was creeping along with the rest of the folks stuck on the road, that if the accident was far enough down I was going to skip my exit and go to the next one.  Just so I could drive by the wreck and see what happened.  Extra time on the road, extra miles before I get home, just to see someone else's disaster.

Turns out, I am one of those people.  A rubber-necker, a gawker, a curiosity freak.  The term schadenfreude (thanks to the musical Avenue Q) comes to mind.  It means satisfaction at the misfortune of others.  Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say that I was happy that someone wrecked... but I was glad that it wasn't me - a little comforted that I'd dodged the bullet this time.  Like it's some bizarre game of Russian roulette that everyone plays and I just know that my turn is coming, but - oh, sweet relief! - it's not today.  Today the tragedy is for someone else, as I drive by and take in as many details as I can (while not rear-ending the car in front of me).

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