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Meet Mr. Grump Driver

From the editor

POSTED: December 5, 2017 6:30 p.m.
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Jeff Whitten is managing editor of the Courier and Bryan County News.

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It’s an awful thing, being old before my time and evidently not only resembling Grumpy of Seven Dwarfs fame but also acting the part.

Just ask my wife.

Whenever we go somewhere together and I drive, before we get very far she invariably tells me I need to go live on an island all by myself, "somewhere with no other drivers so I can have the whole road to myself."

This always follows something I, in driving mode, say or do to those who seem intent on running me off the road.

"You have no patience with other drivers," she says, and she’s right.

In my defense, I have all the patience in the world with many if not most drivers. They go their way, and I go mine.

I don’t have patience with the growing number of people who apparently think I’m in their way and not moving fast enough — and that even though I, like most folks, tend to treat posted speed limits like the starting point, not where you’re supposed to end up.

Here I will note, not for the first time, that if people walked around in public like they drive on roads we’d have fist-fights every five seconds.

Imagine standing in line at the bank and leaving a few feet between you and the person in front of you, only to have someone from behind you come running up and squeeze themselves in.

And here, I further note that I remember one scorching summer afternoon long before the Georgia Department of Transportation realigned the intersection of Highways 84 and 196 East. Back then McIntosh Mountain was a frequent site of accidents.

It also created road rage, like when several large people in a dusty Ford crew cab pickup with a Texas flag screen on the window got so mad at all the slow pokes in their way, everyone inside stuck giant hammy arms out the window and began one-finger-saluting everything in sight.

They did it over and over and over again, shooting those middle fingers at the intersection like they were pistols:: pow, pow, pow, pow. Take that, and that, and that, and that too, and while we’re at it, hooray for Texas.

It was funny, by then.

But this is not the point of this column, which like most things I tend to write in this space seems rarely aimed at making a particular point. If it were, I’d say the point is that the most dangerous thing most of us do during the day is get behind the wheel to go somewhere.

Every time we do, we put our faith in an ever increasing number of people, and trust they know what they’re doing enough to not run over us and kill us while we’re trying to get where we’ve got to go.

They do the same with us. Somehow, it seems to work more times than it doesn’t. That’s a good thing. But the odds don’t seem to be in our favor. Rare is the day I don’t come across a wreck on my commute.

Not all that long ago I was driving home after an early day and got to a two-way stop intersection where a crowded county road crosses Highway 17. The intersection was once in the middle of nowhere, but has grown crowded and dangerous and in need of a light, though nobody seems to be able to get one. It’s apparently easier to build more houses and convience stores.

And then, as I sat at the stop sign waiting to cross the highway, a woman in a SUV on the other side of the road pulled out in front of a fast-moving transfer truck. The impact knocked the SUV spinning off the road and into a ditch.

The truck driver, who couldn’t have avoided the woman if he tried, slowed and pulled over about 100 yards down the road and got out, and I saw him lean over like he was going to throw up. Seconds passed, and it seemed everybody else in that little part of the world just sort of froze, me included, and then I pulled off the road and got out of my car to go help.

By then, several other men were also out of their vehicles and running toward the SUV — including one young latecomer who yelled "let me through, I’m a trauma surgeon."

Wow. Go figure.

We did what we could to help, me least of all. I mostly stood around and tried to open my pocket knife in case we had to cut the woman’s seatbelt to get her out. Amazingly, the woman was OK, had hardly a suffered a scratch. She was shaken up, but then so was everybody else except maybe the trauma surgeon.

As the paramedics walked her to the ambulance, she asked "did I kill anybody?"

No, nobody was killed that time. But more than 1,360 people have died on roads in Georgia so far this year.

And here’s what gets me.

If they’d been stabbed or shot or strangled, folks would be up in arms and demanding somebody do something about it.

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