Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Slow Down

You can't go to the post office or grocery store in Bigfork right now without seeing someone receiving a multitude of hugs as they try to get their errands done. The hug recipients are family and friends of the very recently deceased. Tragically, Bigfork has lost three young people in the last two weeks on the highway. Two young men in one car, 27 and 26 years of age, and one young lady in another separate accident, 29 years old. No one was wearing a seat belt. All had plans for the future. They won't be experiencing the future. A fisherman , 43, drowned on Monday, the 6th, when the forcasted winds whipped up the water on flathead Lake, and he came off his personal watercraft. A young man who cooks at a Bigfork restaurant for a living confided in me that he had been to three funerals in the past week, and "It hurts. This is just a small town."
It is eerie driving over the spots on the highway that are scarred up with skid marks, knowing that someone just died there during the week. On my way downtown with my granddaughter on board, a girl came driving around a corner towards me on the wrong side of the road phone in hand, texting. I slammed on my brakes, pulled over, and blasted the horn. She looked up, corrected, and passed by me without mishap. But this is happening far too much. On the way home, same trip, I was traveling down the highway when a truck in the distance began swerving right and left on the road. I slowed down. As the truck passed me, I could see the man was trying to reach for something in his back seat that he was having a hard time reaching. Pull over, Dude. Jeez. Collision at the speed limit is rarely survived.

Five days ago, just six miles from Bigfork, another young man, 24 years old, drifted across the highway and into a tractor trailer carrying apples. His obituary says, "His family asks that those who knew him honor his life by not letting a minute slip by without making the absolute most of it." There is a lot of pain when you lose someone in the prime of their life. But how much do we really think we can get out of a minute? Do we have to multi-task all the time? On the same night, NASCar driver wanna be's were racing in Polson at the other end of Flathead Lake, missed the curve near the Kerr Dam (who wouldn't?) and one car ended up in the river. Luckily, no one died there.
The crash stats for Flathead county are grim. On Cape Cod in Barnstable County, with a population of approx. 225,000 people, there are between 20 to 30 traffic related deaths per year. Here in Flathead County, with less than half the people (85,000), there were 27 crash related deaths in 2007, and we are well on our way to that number in 2008.

Maybe we should stop living our lives full speed ahead. Maybe we should not answer the cell phone in the car. Maybe we should not even think about reading a text in a car, never mind while we are in charge of a passenger train. A recent Am Track crash in California caused dozens of deaths, and the engineer had been texting when he missed a red light on his track. http://www.subchat.com/read.asp?Id=681436 Can you imagine? And definitely, we should all wear seatbelts. And definitely, we should not drink and drive. Attention must be paid.

But why are people acting so recklessly? Is the general perception of the population that things are so bad according to Network news that we are now going to be more careless, more blase, more depressed, more fatalistic, and thus, more accident prone? To the great distress of our family and friends?

We must do what the sign says on Route Six in Wellfleet, my home town on Cape Cod, where Zac lost his life. "Live mindfully." We must all live mindfully, know that hard times have come before, and reach out to each other to help, rather than living dangerously and recklessly.
OK, enough on highway escapades. Next time, more on horses. Sorry, but this has been a hard week here in Montana. The only business with no slow down is the undertaker. And that is pretty sad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We just spent Sunday at Marconi for a long walk and down to the beach where white dogger jumped the cliff! Some kind couple from NY offered us a ride back from LaCount Hollow, which was a closer walk for tired ole dogger than Marconi itself-- on the way back to Eastham I really "saw" the Zac sign for the first time-- meaning I took it in. Live Mindfully.
Simple and true and there could be no better choice in this living thing than to do it with attention.
The now is all we ever have--
and the slower we take it the longer it is.

I am sorrowful for the loved ones of those young people, Irene.