Friday, November 7, 2014

Fresh eyes

My dad was a cabbie and he had this weird expression, "Keep fresh eyes on the road," by which he meant, "Look at the road like you've never seen it," It sounded weird, I mean, I know 'x' road, I've been down it a million times. I can take this turn like a champ, I always look both ways, why do I need "fresh eyes" when I have this area down pat?
     He nagged the worst in familiar places, even if you didn't make a mistake driving, he repeated the phrase ad nausem so many times I will hear it long after he dies. As an adult I know now why he said it so many times. He was trying to keep us and everyone else on the road alive. Because your brain wants to kill you. No really. Look up how many accidents occur within the driver's residential radius. Too lazy? I don't blame you, here: A government study. Too lazy to read another link. No worries, let me sum it up: More drivers are in accidents in suburban areas, they are less likely to be wearing a seat belt, and further, are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. And another study which shows you're more likely to die by car than by firearm or poisoning, Also, and old person is more likely to do it.
      Why would you be more likely to be in an accident in the area you live? Why is it more likely to be a car? Well, to answer the second question, because its the easiest, its because we don't think of cars as a loaded gun. While they are a tool of transportation they've been used in murder case, intentionally, (you can look that up on your own, I seriously do not have the heart), and unintentionally (again, your own imputes to look up the cases, but if you do, don't be surprised at how many are recent). I'm not going to decry the usefulness of motorized transportation, but we rarely treat it as seriously as it merits, and a gun is useful as a metaphor because anyone who is really serious about being responsible never looses the respect for its profound damage and fatal impact.
     Now the first question is a little more tricky, it gets back to what I said about your brain wanting you dead. You see our brain is an incredibly lazy organ, its much easier to project the memory of a place to your optic nerves, than take in new input, I mean, why would you need to? You've seen this place before. However, your lazy brain is going to get you or someone else killed. Let's start with inattention blindness which can be hilarious in a study, but not so much when you didn't see a kid and you're in a car. Or when you a hit a neon lit cyclist. This is caused, in some cases, by an overload on your brain which can happen due to accident, age, or because your brain is tired and isn't in the mood. This is part of why learning new things is harder as you get old because it's literally harder, you didn't get dumber, you got old. Happens to everyone if they're lucky.
      This is why my dad said, "fresh eyes on the road," and no, he's never read any study on traffic, (that I know of), and his literary taste are more toward Tom Clancy if I'm to be honest.  He's a literal road scholar because he figured out on his own that his brain was trying to kill him. He realized when he thought the way was clear, that other car or person didn't pop out of nowhere, his brain had deleted them. I know because its happened to me, that person wasn't speed, they weren't breaking the law, my brain was trying to kill me.
     As we move about in our world, no matter what form of transportation we use, we need to have fresh eyes on the road. When you get to a stop sign you've been to a million times, when you stop at a light you've stopped at a million times more, blink. Look at that road like you've never seen it before. Just for an instant. It's kept me safe for a long time. How many times have you heard, just in the news, the phrase, "I didn't see them," or "They came out of nowhere," and bystanders aghast because how could you not see that person?
     The solution is each of us keeping fresh eyes on the road. No matter the hurry, no matter how late. You will not get there faster in a hearse or after a police report. You need to see that road as if you've never been down it, blink, if only for a second. That second could be the one that saves a life. There is of course, the added bonus of seeing things you never saw before, which is how I try to do it, to look for something new every time, because it keeps it interesting and it challenges my brain on what it does know.
    Stay safe out there, and keep fresh eyes on the road.

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