Ramblings and Revolutions

I think, therefore I'm dangerous.

Public Service Announcement — Wear That Seat Belt

Some lessons you only have to learn once.

Way back in the dark ages, when I was living in the Washington, D.C., metro area, I drove the Capital Beltway to work. I commuted from northern Virginia to suburban Maryland, 35 miles each way, five days a week.

It was a pretty routine drive, despite the expected congestion and delays. Until that one morning.

It was raining, and traffic was slow, about 30 to 35 mph. Everything was proceeding fine until one car hit the brakes without warning. The car behind that one hit it in the rear.  A third car hit the second.

There was no way to avoid it, no time to react, no way out.  My Honda Civic was the fourth car. It hit the rear of the third, followed by two more cars crashing into the rear of the Civic.

Then, as now, I was wearing glasses. I watched as they flew off my face and slammed into the windshield in front of me. Had I not been wearing a seat belt, my head would have done the same thing.

Fortunately, everyone involved in the “minor” crash had their belts on, and no one was seriously hurt. But it all could have been so much worse.

I’ve always been pretty conscientious about seat belt use since I started driving, but that one episode removed all doubt. I have never stepped into a car since without buckling my seat belt.

Remember, this was “only” at 30 to 35 mph. Without the seat belt, at the very least, we’re talking about a probable concussion. Or a possible permanent brain injury. Worst case scenario, I wouldn’t be here to write this.

Sadly, my lesson is one some folks never get the chance to learn. In the past week, two tragic road accidents here in Central Florida have taken the lives of at least four people — I say “at least” because about a dozen are still hospitalized. Seat belts and child restraints could have made a difference.

In the first incident, a driver apparently lost control of an SUV on a dirt road. The vehicle rolled over, ejecting all five occupants. The victims weren’t found until nearly six hours after the crash. By that time, three of the five were dead. One survivor was critically injured, the other seriously injured. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, none were wearing seat belts.

The second incident occurred on a major roadway Monday afternoon. Another SUV experienced a tire blowout at speed. Once again, the vehicle rolled over multiple times, ejecting passengers as it did. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Nine other people, seven of them children, were hospitalized.

I will concede it’s possible to be ejected from a vehicle while wearing a seat belt. But it’s a whole lot less likely. And if you’re restrained inside the vehicle, you’re considerably less likely to die than if you’re flying through the air outside it.  That’s basic physics in action, not rocket science.

And not having children properly secured in child restraint seats is criminal negligence in my book.

Yes, these deaths were tragic, the results of unforeseen circumstances. But four people might be alive today, and 11 others might not be hospitalized, if they had been properly buckled in. We’ve got 60 years of evidence on this. Seat belts save lives.

If you’re one of the folks who don’t wear seat belts, or think they’re too much trouble for short, low-speed trips, that’s your right.

But if that’s the way you’re going to drive, at least have the decency to sign your organ donor card before you get in the car.

Snap(shot) Judgment

In today’s world, we all make snap judgments all the time about other folks. Sometimes we’re right, often we’re wrong, without ever knowing. I try not to be TOO judgmental, but I know full well I don’t succeed as often as I should.

But sometimes you just know. You get a glimpse of a person or a photograph and you just can’t help knowing something about them.

I like to keep up with the goings-on around the little town where I went to college. The Web makes it easy to  find the town newspaper online. I grew up in the same general area, so I’ll sometimes read the obituaries, just to see if there’s anyone in there I know (trust me, twentysomethings, you’ll do the same in 30 years).

I was doing that this morning and ran across an obit of a woman I’ve never met. Never saw her before. But I’d bet my next paycheck she was an unpleasant, unhappy person.

Keep in mind that family members of the deceased choose the picture that runs with an obituary. They almost always portray the dearly departed in a positive light. It might be a happy portrait. It might be a distinguished shot in a military uniform. But it’s generally a positive vision.

This woman’s picture was not happy. It was not distinguished. It was angry. Like “don’t mess with me” angry.

Then there was the obituary itself. Her full name indicated she had been married twice. Her first husband was referred to not as her husband, but as “the father of her children.” Her second husband wasn’t mentioned at all.

I couldn’t help thinking how unhappy this woman must have been.  And/or how unhappy her family members who wrote the obit must have been. To not even acknowledge either husband as such? Wow, there had to have been some serious hostility there.

Ultimately, I found it sad. Surely this woman was happy at some point. Surely there was a picture somewhere that could have shown her smiling, or at least not scowling. Yet that’s the last — and in my case, only — view that strangers will have of her.

So what’s my point? LIfe’s too long to hold a grudge, and too short to take it seriously. Relax. Enjoy the ride while you’re here. Smile. Make other people smile. Laugh.

What do you want the last picture of you to tell the world?




… You Stop And You Hold Everything…

It’s easy to get caught up in the small hassles of the day sometimes. You know, nothing big, but the little irritations we all have — traffic, the slowpoke in front of you in the supermarket aisle or the drive-through lane, the ATM that’s out of service. The little things can start to add up to a bad mood, a certain surliness.

Then you hear IT.

You know what I mean. Whether on the radio, streaming, CD or live, you hear it– the song that kicks you out of a bad mood every single time you hear it. The song that just does it for you.

All of a sudden, the day starts to look a whole lot brighter.

Most of us have several such songs. Here’s one of mine:

Dire Straits — Sultans of Swing

Pop Quiz

Has anybody here seen the fuzzy-wuzzy loving cup explosion?

The Meaning of Family

A wise individual whose name I can’t recall once wrote that the call you dread never comes in the middle of the night. Rather, it comes out of the blue on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, or some other inconvenient time when you least expect it.

I got that call last Friday morning.

My cell phone buzzed at work, and the display showed my wife’s name. Uh-oh. We never call each other at work, so this was something serious.

“I need to go to Houston. Now.”

Her sister’s husband had been scheduled to have a minor medical  procedure that morning, and before it could begin, had a heart attack. He was alive, but we didn’t know his condition at that point.

We scrambled. Packing done.  Airline tickets booked. Dogs boarded. Cat sitter lined up.

Less than eight hours later, we touched down in Houston. My nephew, who received the same call from his mother, had already arrived from California.

By that point, my brother-in-law was stable. Thankfully, the heart attack proved to be mild. He was scheduled for a diagnostic procedure on Monday.

Saturday evening, he asked that my mother-in-law — who is as much a mom to the rest of us as she is to her daughters — fly in from Wisconsin. She didn’t hesitate. We picked her up at the airport on Sunday.

Fortunately, Monday’s procedure went well, and my brother-in-law will soon be fine.  We’re safely home, back to the comforts of daily routine.

Yet one thing lingers. The astonishing power of family never ceases to amaze me. All of us have had our differences with each other over the years, but in a crisis, we are indivisible. When the situation was dire, every one of us dropped everything to respond. We’re literally scattered from coast to coast, and north to south. Work, school, expense, inconvenience, didn’t matter. We got there when we needed to.

That’s family.

And it’s not restricted to relatives by blood or marriage, either. I’ve done the same thing for friends, and had them do the same thing for me. Anyone who has at least one person in their life they can count on to that degree is truly blessed.

Me? I’m blessed several times over.


Oops! Betcha Didn’t Think About This One…

Now that we’re safely past May the 4th Be With You, you thought the Star Wars theme was done, didn’t you?


Here we are, two days later. So what does that make today?


(wait for it…)






Cinco de WHY-O?

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

For those of us who don’t speak Spanish, that’s Happy May 5th.  Hooray! Let’s all drink margaritas!

Um, OK, but why?

If you’re not of Mexican heritage, do you know what Cinco de Mayo commemorates? I’m willing to bet most non-Mexican Americans don’t.

“What’s to know?” some might say. “It’s Mexican Independence Day, like Mexico’s Fourth of July, right?”

Wrong. Mexican Independence Day is celebrated in September.

Cinco de Mayo is, instead, the commemoration of a Mexican victory over French troops at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It’s not a big celebration in Mexico.

In the United States, it’s basically St. Patrick’s Day, on a smaller scale — an excuse to drink. And like St. Patrick’s Day, I just don’t get it.

My wife gets annoyed with me because I don’t share her enthusiasm for St. Paddy’s Day. She loves it — wears green clothing, drinks green beer, eats corned beef, the works. This from a woman whose maiden name is distinctly Germanic in origin.

And the places that make a big deal of it — OK, I get New York and Boston, with their significant Irish heritage. I even kinda understand Chicago,  But Savannah, Georgia? Savannah? What on earth is particularly Irish about that lovely bastion of the Olde South? Yet they have a huge celebration every St. Pat’s Day.

It’s the same with me and Cinco de Mayo. I just can’t get excited about celebrating a Mexican battle victory that my Scot-Irish ancestors had nothing to do with. But of course, my lovely bride and I will go out to dinner tonight at a proper (not fast food) Mexican restaurant, and toast the holiday with Mexican beer.

Bastille Day, on the other hand, I can definitely get behind. Baguettes et vin  pour deux, s’il vous plait!



May 4, 1970

Lest we forget:




45 years ago today, and sadly, still relevant.

Baltimore, 5/1/15

{Full disclosure: My father’s a cop.}

I realize that the vast majority of police officers in this country serve honorably and with distinction every day. I appreciate them for the often dangerous, always thankless job they perform.

Having said that, it appears that some thugs wear blue.

May justice be served in Baltimore.

Save the Naugas!

April 29 marks a sad day in history.  On this date in 1979, the last known wild Nauga was tracked down and shot for its beautiful hyde.

The hyde was later made into a sofa of rich harvest gold and avocado green for Mr. and Mrs. Alphonse Q. Farkleworth, of Dayton, Ohio. The Farkleworths enjoyed it for a number of years before donating it to a Dayton thrift shop. Sadly, it met a tragic fate in the great Frat House Couch Massacre of 1997.

Today, Naugas live only in captivity.  According to the controversial documentary Black Couch, it’s a grim existence, lived in outdated rec rooms and conversation pits decorated with disco lights.

Hope is not lost, however. We can save the Naugas and their equally endangered brethren, the Alcantaras!  (A crossbreed between a llama and an ostrich, whose hides are most commonly found in the interiors of German supercars.)

It’s easy. All you have to do is contribute to our Save The Naugas Foundation. We are dedicated to the preservation of these lovely little creatures. We guarantee your donations will be used for lavish hotel suites, German supercars,  gourmet meals and protecting the future of fictitious pleather-producing animals. (Please note — our rigorous research protocol  WILL require the purchase of at least one German supercar equipped with Alcantara interior.)

Please, won’t you give generously? The Naugas are depending on you! Thank you so much for your support.

(To see a picture of an actual Nauga, go here.)

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