It’s the Clock’s Fault!

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed as I’ve been out driving that I seem to be having more near misses when it comes to car accidents. I really don’t think my driving habits have changed significantly, or if they have, I would say I might be driving slightly more “old lady-ish” but that would be about all, and by that I only mean I’m more prone to following the speed limit, not running yellow lights, that sort of thing. But over the last several months I’ve had several close calls where I’ve almost been side swiped (twice), rear-ended at high speeds (twice), lane drifters, and all kinds of other stuff. It’s taken me a while, but I think I am finally figuring out the problem.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is that “oh we’re all so busy and in a hurry”, and that might be partly true, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. Nor do I think that distracted driving is completely to blame either, although it certainly can take the lion’s share of it. So, my analytical little brain has sat and thought, and thought, and thought about this one.

Having a background in Quality Improvement is interesting. You start to look at things in a different way. For example, in the past you might have thought to yourself “I wonder how my favorite bakery decides on a new cookie to bake?” but now it’s all part of a process. You start with this step, move to the next, then next and voila, new cookie in the market! Or you overanalyze things to find root cause, because you can’t just let ordinary things go – you are compelled to keep asking why.

You know, there’s a new trend in interviewing in business, called Behavioral Based Interviewing and the rationale behind it is that past actions are the best predictor of future behavior. Well, apparently, it’s true, just ask my mom, because I’m fairly certain she’ll tell you I was one of those annoying two-year olds that ran around behind her always asking “why, why, why, why, why?” Of course, in hindsight, perhaps she should have known I’d go into Quality, since the key to doing root cause analysis on a problem is asking “why” 5 times! (Parents, take heart – if you have a toddler like this, quality analysis is a great career field!)

So, as I’ve pondered why I seem to be seeing more near misses, I think I have found the answer. The reason why we’re do busy, why we’re so distracted, is the digital clock. Think about it for a moment. Back when all we used were analog clocks, we were much more likely to live on -ish time. You know what I mean…”what time is it honey?” “It’s 3:30-ish”. Or “when do you think you’ll be leaving work?” “5-ish”. We’d glance at the clock to find out what time it was, respond in relative time frames. You’d see it was getting close to a time you’d need to do something, so you’d act accordingly. If you needed to leave by 4 to get somewhere and you saw this:

You’d think “I’d better get going” and off you’d go. But now, we think in terms of this:

and immediately think “Oh, it’s only 3:54, it takes me maybe 30 minutes to get there and if I push it, I can do it in 28. I’m good, ” and then we dawdle until suddenly it’s this:

…and the next thing you know you’re flying down the road, not paying attention, running nearly red lights and almost sideswiping unsuspecting motorists who are doing the right thing at stoplights by waiting until after the light turns green before preceding into the intersection, when you come along and make a right turn on red without stopping because you dawdled. Again.

When I got an Apple watch, one of the first things I did was to set up a watch face that was analog. I like it so much better than digital, as I really do prefer that sense of “-ish time.” You know what I’m talking about when I use that term, we still have it in our lives, just not as much as we used to. “What time will your party start?” “Oh, 6-ish or so.” Or, “What time is dinner?” “Probably 7-ish”. Better yet, I like the even more vague dark-thirty, as in “the party really got going around dark-thirty”. (Don’t overthink it. If I have to explain it to you, we probably wouldn’t have much fun together at a party anyway.)

I know I won’t change the world and get everyone back to an analog life, but it sure would be lovely if we could figure out how to slow down just a little, and not be so urgent all of the time. Maybe get a little more “ish” back into our lives – in the good way.

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A Trip to the Twilight Zone

Several years ago, my husband brought a proposal for a trip to witness an event to my attention, and at the time I really didn’t think he was all that serious about it. Fast forward to a few months ago when he brought up the topic again, and it was readily apparent to me I’d significantly underestimated his interest in this event, so we began planning how we might be able to be among those who watched the 2017 Solar Eclipse, and in August we took a road trip down to Columbia, Missouri for the big show. We are terribly fortunate, my husband’s brother and his wife live there, so we were able to stay with them, and his nieces were in the process of moving from Florida to Jefferson City which is about 30 minutes south of Columbia. One was there already and was gracious enough to let us stay with her for the first two nights in spite of the fact that she didn’t even have towels or pillows unpacked yet, items we were happy enough to bring along. (Thanks Mary!!)

The trip down was mostly good, up until the last half hour before Jefferson City, when we hit a heck of a rain storm. Suddenly our long drive got even longer, when hubby had to slow WAY down just to see the road. Fortunately that didn’t last terribly long, and after winding our way on a curvy, hilly road in the dark, we got to Joanna and Mary’s house, a couple of weary travelers stumbling out of the car and into an unexpected wall of warm humidity. Yeah, that wasn’t planned for at all, after all that time in an air conditioned car and we were instantly dripping wet. Fortunately his nieces’ house had AC, so we were quite comfy inside. What we didn’t realize is that Missouri is known for it’s humidity, and the air conditioners go on May 1, and don’t go off until the end of October. The other thing we didn’t know, is that there are armadillos in Missouri…yep, you read that correctly, armadillos. We saw a couple of dead ones on the road, and fortunately other drivers hit them, not us, as I’ve heard they can do some awful damage to your car. I guess it’s because they have this weird startle reflex causing them to jump straight up in the air…so when cars drive over them, they jump up, and that lovely armored shell causes all kinds of damage to the undercarriages of cars. Ugh.

Sunday morning we headed up to Columbia, where we had the unique experience of attending church where my husband’s brother is the pastor. It’s not an ordinary church, but rather is an international church on the campus of Baptist University. There were attendees from a number of different countries and cultures there, so his brother is kind of acting as a missionary right here in the United States. His wife teaches Sunday School to the children, and she said it can be really interesting as some of the children don’t speak any English at all. She finds she has to be creative, and uses lots of crafts to teach the kids. Look out on glitter Sundays!

Monday dawned, and was the big event. We set up our lawn chairs and waited, then watched in dismay as hazy clouds started to fill the sky. Apparently this isn’t an unusual phenomenon with eclipses, as the moon begins to cross in front of the sun and the temperature drops, it causes clouds to form. So on top of the partly cloudy sky we already had, we got more haze blocking our view. We did get to experience and see the eclipse, and while it wasn’t nearly as good as some parts of the country, I can’t really fuss because back home in Minnesota, I understand it rained all day and where they were hoping for a partial, they got nothing so I really shouldn’t whine.

The experience – now that was something else. While I can’t say the four of us were moved to tears or were overwhelmed, like some folks seem to have been, it certainly was an awesome and amazing sight. IMG_9633Perhaps if the sky had been clear it would have been different for us, but the sun/moon were periodically disappearing and reappearing behind clouds, so we had less than the 2 min of viewing the corona that a lot of others got. (I want a do-over!) It was beautiful, eerie, and kind of otherworldly. My husband and I took some photos that unfortunately were also a bit on the hazy side. The thing that was weird though, is that it got dark out, but not as dark as I thought it would. IMG_9651The light that remained literally made you feel like you were in the Twilight Zone, and then all of a sudden it was done, the sun peeked out, warmth came back and the haze disappeared.
We also got a few photos on the “exit” side. You’ll note that the sun looks orange, which is more from the color of the filter covering the lens of the camera than anything.

So would I travel again to see an eclipse? You’d better believe it! They happen about every 18 months somewhere in the world. There are total, annular and partial eclipses. I’d never heard of an annular eclipse before and had to look that one up. That’s when there is a ring of the sun that is still visible, where the moon isn’t quite covering all of the sun. In that case you can’t remove the protective glasses at all. It’s like having a “ring of fire” in the sky. I think that would be interesting, but not nearly as much fun as a total eclipse. So who knows, maybe we’ll plan some around the world vacations around the coming total eclipses. There are a couple that go over Australia, and I’ve always wanted to go there. Can you imagine what a trip that would be? Dive the great barrier reef, visit New Zealand AND see a total eclipse? Truly a trip of a lifetime for us. Have you gone anywhere that you considered your “trip of a lifetime”? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

Driving 101

As many of you know, I’m the lucky recipient of a brand spanking new hip, which, for a number of reasons, has put me in a slightly different frame of mind over the last several weeks. Residual effects of anesthesia (which I’m told can mess with your brain for up to a year), pain dulling to annoying discomfort, a very slow moving body and forced down time I had all made me see things a little differently.

Among those things are the driving habits of about 75% of the general population, most of whom have forgotten what they learned only long enough to pass their driver’s test, apparently. So, how many of the following will each of you get right? Let’s see. (These are for Minnesota Driving Regulations only, I can’t speak to any other states.)

  1. Right turn on red is: a) never allowed. b) allowed unless otherwise posted, with a rolling stop  c) allowed unless otherwise posted, but only after coming to a complete stop d) always allowed
  2. A stop sign a) only requires a complete stop if there are other vehicles in visible line of sight  b) only requires a complete stop if there are police vehicles in visible line of sight  c) requires a complete stop at all times   d) what’s a stop sign?
  3. After stopping at a stop sign, you can proceed a) through the crosswalk as long as there are no pedestrians in it  b) through the crosswalk assuming you can get through ahead of the pedestrians c) the pedestrians have to stop for vehicles of course, drive on through!
  4. The Move Over Law  a) states all vehicles traveling slower than the posted speed limit need to move to the far right lane on a multi-lane road, or pull to the shoulder on a two-lane road if traffic is unable to safely pass on the left side  b)that you move to the lane farthest away from emergency vehicles, if possible to do so safely  c) we have a Move Over Law?
  5. Correctly identify the sign below:   a) Wheelchair parking only  b) Parking for vehicles with the appropriate disability plates or permits only   c) For use by anyone as long as they aren’t caught.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 7.58.35 PM

The answers are (in case you didn’t know) 1c, 2c, 33a, 4b, 5b.  How many did you get wrong? I hope none, but over the past weeks since I resumed driving after surgery, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen most of these violated, the exception being the last one. Given adequate time, even that too will happen, sadly. Why am I more sensitive about this? Probably because the speed at which I had been moving much more closely resembled that of the proverbial tortoise, rather than the hare. At Wal-Mart a few weeks ago, I had just parked my car in one of the spots denoted with the sign above (and yes, I have my permit), and got out of my car, proceeding toward the store slowly using my cane. As I approached the crosswalk, a woman came from my right side, briefly glanced at the stop sign (see question #2) decided that red octagonal signs with white outlines were optional and proceeded through the crosswalk – which I had already entered – without stopping (see question #3).

Perhaps I had my cloaking device on again. That had to be it, because that’s the only rational explanation I can come up with for the sheer stupidity exhibited by this apparently adult woman who appeared to be in her 40’s. Not a teen, not anyone talking on their cell phone, and apparently in command of all of her faculties although that is up for debate from my perspective.

I do know that most insurance companies offer discounts to drivers over a certain age if they take a defensive driving course, and in Minnesota it’s 55 years of age. Perhaps it wouldn’t be an entirely dumb idea to offer that discount earlier? Start it at age 30, then boost the value at age 55 from 10% to 15%. State Farm, are you listening? Because apparently people are stupid WAY earlier than at age 55. News flash: yellow lights aren’t for fun, they are to alert you that the red is coming so you can try to stop, not speed up, dumbass! And if you’re climbing up my tailpipe when I’m going the speed limit, knock it the hell off, I’m not speeding up just to make you happy. Ain’t happening, and all you’re gonna get by tailgating me is a) more pissed off, b) a possible ticket for tailgating  c) a possible bigger ticket for the accident you caused when you rear ended me, because in Minnesota if you rear end someone, it IS your fault and d) a lawsuit for rear ending me, dumbass.

If you recognized yourself in any of the above scenarios, perhaps a refresher in Driving 101 is right up your alley.