I grew up in a town of around 6,000 people. It was the biggest town for about 25 or 30 miles, making ours a rural area.

All of the paved roads for many miles were two lanes. That means, for you city folks, one lane in each direction. Unpaved roads (gravel, we called them, though they were mostly dirt) were technically two lanes, but generally when two vehicles met, one had to pull over.

The ground was flat and most of it was farmed. Even when the corn was high, you could see the dust rise up in the distance from any other cars that happened to be out there.

I drove on country roads before I had a license. Most of us did, because we worked on farms or in fields. My grandfather explained that I’d rarely need my brakes. “Downshift to slow down at an intersection (there were no stop signs), but keep moving if no one else is there.”

The entire town had three stop lights, all on Main Street. The biggest intersection was simply “the four-way stop.”

Finally the day came when I went to test for an actual license. It was my 16th birthday, and my grandfather drove me downtown in our 1962 4-door Pontiac Catalina. I’ve since seen shorter 18-wheelers.

The test

I had an appointment, so Granddad parked on the street then went to get the inspector. I slid into the driver’s seat as they approached. The inspector said, “Ralph, you can wait in my office. We’ll be back soon.” Granddad opened the back door and got in. He said, “Thanks, George, but I just want to be dropped off up the street.”

George nodded at me to pull out, and as we approached a stop light he said, “Make a left turn here.” From the back seat Granddad said, “No, turn right, then make another right.”

It was a good lesson for me in several ways, but eventually George said, “Just go where he says.” We dropped him off in front of a tavern.

When he was out of the car he leaned back in and said, “If you pass, come back and get me. If you don’t pass, park the car and have George get us a taxi.”

Over the next few years, Ralph was my passenger for many miles. I never took him to or picked him up from a tavern again, but I took him to hospitals for treatments, to doctors, and even once in a while to the grocery store. It was a master class in life, in the effects on the body of a lot of drinking and smoking, but mostly in learning to care for someone I already loved.

Naturally I also heard a lot of stories from Ralph, several of which I can still tell. And I learned how to drive.

As I navigate the streets of Phoenix — with a population slightly higher than 6,000 — I often wish my fellow drivers would have learned from Ralph.

Or, apparently, from anyone. Arizona drivers, according to AAA, lead the nation in running red lights.

My road

Only a week ago my wife and I were on a freeway headed east. On the westbound side there were more than a dozen cars pulled over, and at least six were police cars. She saw one ambulance.

Later that morning we got a news alert. There had not been an accident, there had been a shooting. The driver who was shot was able to pull off the road and call 911. Others stopped to help, and the injured man was taken to the hospital.

The police did not call it road rage, they called it a shooting. I did a little research, and shootings on freeways happen all over the country.

I didn’t hear much about shootings on the road when I was a kid, even though a very high percentage of people where I grew up had guns in their cars. They still do. But shootings were not the solution to a problem with another driver.

In fact, I’d say shooting someone because their driving offends you may be the least “do good” thing you could choose.

Which leads to the root of a very big problem I see on the roads. It’s actually everywhere, but let’s use driving as our example.

Ready?

We are in the middle of a pandemic. This virus wasn’t developed in a chemical lab, it was developed simultaneously in many universities around the world. I call it Immoreimportantthanyouitis.

Those who are infected should not drive until they have received the antidote, which can be taken mentally in the comfort of one’s own home.

Driving without the antidote is dangerous enough, because it seems many cars are badly flawed.

Every day I see vehicles with brakes that are failing, accelerators that have too little resistance, and turn signals that don’t work at all. And it may be that many windows aren’t clear, because I see pedestrians in the crosswalk having to jump back to safety. Obviously the oncoming driver couldn’t see them… or the red light… or that the Walk light was on.

Fixing the cars should be simple. Fixing Immoreimportantthanyouitis just requires that antidote.

Over the course of my life, I’ve suffered from mild cases of this virus myself. While I haven’t shot anyone for driving badly, I’ve chastised them from the safety of my car. That’s when I make sure I get a dose of the antidote, which is known worldwide as humility.

Humility is not thinking lowly of yourself, it is simply not thinking of yourself at all. Anyone who has Immoreimportantthanyouitis is thinking only of themself, and that is exactly like driving a car with no brakes at all.

So get your turn signals fixed, but most of all remember that we share the roads — and the world — with other human beings. Let them be more important than you once in a while. You’ll like how it feels.

Drive good. Live good. Do good. It’s in you.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mark Starley

    Well said my humble friend.
    You are a good example of this.

    1. Lewis Greer

      Thanks, Mark! You are very kind.
      For any good traits I display from time to time, the credit goes to my two dads. 🙂

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