Charles E. Richardson

Having the right Christmas spirit is harder than you think

Something has to be done. I used to worry about being picked off by a driver under the influence — but that term has expanded to included not just someone who has had too much to drink, smoke, inject or pop — but also to those who can’t seem to keep their eyes off of that alluring screen attached to their smartphones.

I know you’ve seen them. You don’t need a breathalyzer to recognize them. Drivers under the influence give off telltale signs. Some hold their phones up for all to see — thinking they can steer their vehicles and text, watch the latest slam dunk or play a game, all at the same time. Others pretend to drive while looking down at their phones every few seconds. Those folks need professional help. At 40 miles per hour they’re traveling almost 20 yards a second.

They drive blissfully along hoping the raised pavement markers will keep them in their lanes. I call these folks “pointers” because they’re not drivers. Everything — including their brains — are on automatic. A manual shift is as foreign as a rotary dial phone.

This makes me jittery. My head is constantly on a swivel. These same smartphone addicted drivers have another annoying habit. They have a tendency to race toward stop signs. If you’re like me and you see a car coming from a side street that doesn’t appear to be slowing down, evasive measures are milliseconds away. Most times they stop — and then they look at you like you’re crazy.

But every now and then, one of these pointers, while talking on the phone, will take a California stop to new heights. Here’s what they’ll do. You have the right of way. They’ll come from your right — and without pausing — turn in front of you. It makes my Dark Angel appear, and has me thinking, “I’m driving a 5,000 pound big-hulking-gas-guzzling SUV. If I T-bone this sucker in that 30-year-old Honda, probably without airbags, I’ll survive, but will she? Will he? Do I care?” The answer at that moment is, “Yes,” “No,” “No” and “No.”

Then the Angel of Reason taps on my medulla oblongata and says, “Apply the brakes, now.” I tell this voice of reason, “It would have been so much easier to just knock the you-know-what out of him/her.”

Reason replied, “Oh yeah, think about that for a moment. The little twerp/twerpet probably doesn’t have a penny of insurance. Your Expedition would be headed for the shop and maybe totaled. You’d have to buy a new car, and remember: Your truck is ‘paid for.’ And one more thing. Have you ever been slapped in the face by an airbag?”

This Angel of Reason had a point. “Besides,” the angel pointed out, “you don’t want to mess up your karma. It’s just not worth it.”

“But the little twerp/twerpet have it coming,” I said. “None of that matters,” said the Angel of Reason, “when you’re standing on the side of the road and a tow truck is hauling your paid for vehicle away and an ambulance is carrying somebody’s child to the hospital. Now if you couldn’t stop, that’s a different story, but since we’re having this conversation, you’ve already done the right thing.”

“Yeah, I did, but I did it for all the wrong reasons.” What do you mean?” the Angel of Reason asked. “I hit the brakes, not because I didn’t want to hit the twerp/twerpet. I hit the brakes so I wouldn’t be inconvenienced. Is that the right spirit to have during Christmas?”

The Angel of Reason, tapped on my inner ear and whispered, “Whatever floats your boat. I won’t tell if you don’t.”