Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Life in real-time.

As I rolled through the parking lot towards the exit, a flicker of movement out of the corner of my eye caused me to stand on the brakes. From between the minivans to my right came a shopping cart with a baby carrier in it, the father pushing it chatting happily on his cell phone, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he had just pushed his child mere feet in front of the bumper of a moving car...
Every day you see them: People completely lost in their own little world while out in public. Cell phones, iPods, hand-held video games, nose down in a book, thumbs clicking out a text message, staring into the distance trying to remember what they need at the grocery store, or simply daydreaming. And then they say "I don't know where the car came from," and "The mugger was just there all of a sudden," and "That rock just fell out of the sky!" Do these people not realize that life is an audience-participation activity?
Sitting in the parking lot at Lowe's, I had the door to my roommate's car open and was about to get out when I snatched it shut again. The woman in the car next to me, absorbed in her conversation, had just thrown the door of her PT Cruiser open. Had I not pulled my door shut, there would have been a crunch and shouting and who-knows-what unpleasantness. Luckily, one of us was paying attention to our surroundings. She never even noticed the situation as she exited her vehicle and continued her conversation while walking across the lot...
People talk about going through life in "Condition Yellow" like it's some kind of paranoia. It's not; it's merely staying aware of the world around you. It's not even necessarily a "tactical" thing, either. Being alert and aware of your surroundings can prevent all kinds of minor mishaps that can make life annoying, painful, expensive, or all three.
As we ate our breakfast in the the little Greek diner, I watched the neighborhood wake up on Chicago's 57th Street. A guy pedaled his bike diagonally across the intersection, narrowly missing a pedestrian. The cyclist was staring off into the middle distance like he was receiving signals from another planet, distinctive white cords dangling from his ears. "How can people do that?" I blurted, "'I didn't hear the car!' 'The guy just jumped me!' He's oblivious!"
You can be all tactical and call it "Condition Yellow" if you want, you can call it "situational awareness", or you could just call it "paying attention"; whatever you call it, it means giving up some of the little luxuries we've all come to take for granted, like having your own personal soundtrack for the movie of your life, but there is a payoff. Sure, people think me a little strange for not cocooning myself with electronic entertainment in public, or constantly prairie-dogging my head up out of a book, but I'm just doing it to people-watch. Because if you don't watch these people, the oblivious idiots will walk right into you.

60 comments:

mikee said...

Sometimes you can't avoid the sudden impact of the idiots. So when you can, you should. Otherwise, your life will be constant idiot impacts.

John Peddie (Toronto) said...

The narcissism of the "me, me, me" sector of the population.

Nothing on earth is more important my Tweeting or my next call on my cell phone.

Natural selection doesn't always work efficiently, and more's the pity.

McVee said...

I find it incomprehensible how many people are oblivious of the world around them. I work in Mordor and as I'm leaving the city I dont turn on the radio until I'm on the expressway. But then I dont like to sit with my back to an entry way either (wife thought it was "cute" when we first met
Best,
McVee

McVee said...

Wait no, I find it inconceivable!

Robert said...

The state patrol is found of saying that speeding causes the most accidents. My retort has always been that lack of attention is what causes the accidents. Almost everyone speeds, so when there is an accident then the likelyhood of at least one of the participants speeding approaches 100%.

Less said...

The Salonica is alright, no?

Tam said...

I recommend the gyro omelet. :)

Boat Guy said...

"Sure, people think me a little strange for not cocooning myself with electronic entertainment in public..." Let them. Those folks are likely gonna be food for somebody one day.
The "cocoon people" are only the ones we have to "watch out for" using the the same meaning as parents must "watch out for" toddlers.

Nathan said...

I'm frankly amazed that my wife has lived as long as she has with the situational awareness she doesn't have...

She's the one stopped dead in the middle of the aisle in the grocery store looking through her coupons while people try to get around her.

Sorry.

BobG said...

When I am driving it seems as if I spend half my time dodging celltards.

Anonymous said...

I used to commute by bicycle. I wouldn't try that today; there are too many cell phones and too few people who see past their hood.

CTone said...

"it means giving up some of the little luxuries we've all come to take for granted, like having your own personal soundtrack for the movie of your life"

Good one!

I loathe the people who stop right in the middle of the aisle, ooooh oooh. . .and also the group of people who walk side by side while talking in a parking lot, taking up the whole lane.

The cell phone issue is the worst though. I get run off the road at least once a week around here, as the good ol' boy network tries to adapt to new technology while driving to work. I crashed my truck last year with my kids in the car because a teenager on her first week of driving was sending a text.

Joanna said...

I was about to suggest inventing a doodad that blocks any cell phone inside a car while the engine is running. The idea is that parents could install it for when their kids drive.

I say I was about to suggest it, because then I remembered that some idiot in Washington would make it a rule that we all had to have one, and I don't want to go there.

Anonymous said...

The other side on Condition Yellow is simply enjoying lots of life's little pleasures... You see more of them than most folks.

Al T.

aczarnowski said...

Being an early adopter of motorcycle technology (high school) I learned this one while I still mostly bounced instead of broke. It's also why I don't own a dedicated MP3 player after my first one died. I never used it - hated being in the bubble and feeling cut off.

It makes me wonder if it's (some) human's nature or if modern tech really is ramping up the obliviousness knob.

pax said...

Joanna: they exist -- and so do pocket models suitable for movie theaters! -- but are not legal in the US.

Tam, great post. I've found that life's so much more pleasant when I *live* it that I'll never go back to just drifting through it.

Jim said...

Day before yestereday I had to brake hard for a kid on a bicycle, texting. He looked about 12.

zeeke42 said...

Joanna,
The real challenge is figuring out which cell phone is the driver's and which belong to the passengers.

Southnarc calls the concept of being unaware of your surroundings while buried in your ipod or the like 'task fixation'. I think it's a good term.

Taking to heart the catchphrase 'avoid task fixation in transitional areas' is probably the single most useful thing you can do to improve your personal safety. (Transitional areas being parking lots, sidewalks, entryways, etc)

Lergnom said...

I also don't like to sit with my back to the door. My wife doesn't comment because her cousin and his wife, with whom we socialize, do the same thing. About the coccooning, I miss the old Bonefone. One could listen to the radio and not have one's ears plugged.
One of my neighbors used to commute to and from work by bike without many problems, but he was a cop and slung his Sam Browne over one shoulder when he rode.

Bill P. said...

Watching the neighbors kid riding his bicycle land on the hood of a parked car while texting. Classic!

DirtCrashr said...

Yesterday a Googlefool on a yellow bicycle rode straight through a red-light, out into the intersection in front of me, talking on a cell phone and I had to hit the brakes. I laid on the horn and hope it helped his conversation. He looked back at me annoyed, as if it was my fault.
Google is Evil AND stupid.

BillyBob said...

Its been a long time since I even thought about a Bonefone.

pax said...

Watching the neighbors kid riding his bicycle land on the hood of a parked car while texting. Classic!

True confessions: when I was in third grade, I was reading my book on my way back to class after recess was over, and walked smack into a steel post. Got a nasty bloody nose, too.

(Yet one more reason my childhood nickname was 'Grace.' My family was so sarcastic!)

ajdshootist said...

DirtCrashr i get the same over here in the UK when some idiot steps of into the road not paying any notice to whats around them and you hit the horn load and long and you get looked
at to say what you do that for.

John said...

Lergnom wrote:

I also don't like to sit with my back to the door.

Paul Atreides taught us this in Dune. I've always followed it since I watched the movie.

B Smith said...

I've always referred to it a S.A.D.D. (Situational Awareness Deficit Disorder). Of course, this risks someone with no sarcasm filter actually believing it is a medical excuse, and inevitably requesting federal funding to study and treat it.
As for the people who walk abreast across the parking aisles, I like to roll down my window and BAAA at them loudly, like a sheep.

Anonymous said...

"...if you don't watch these people, the oblivious idiots will walk right into you."

Or smash into you while driving 75, texting (with punctuation!), and eating a cheeseburger...obliterating you and your entire family.

DWT...it's the new DUI.

AT

Matt said...

While waiting for a light to change I watched as a college age girl in the opposing lane T-boned a woman that had the green light. Said college girl was of course chatting away on her cell phone. Which she never put down even AFTER exiting her car to assess the damage.

So glad it wasn't me that got hit as I may have ended up in jail for ripping that phone from her hand and enthusiastically stomping it into tiny little pieces.

Joanna said...

So glad it wasn't me that got hit as I may have ended up in jail for ripping that phone from her hand and enthusiastically stomping it into tiny little pieces.

No jury would convict you on that one.

MaddMedic said...

Head up!
Eyes open!
Ears unfettered by earphones!

I was with my boyz the other day when we saw a pedistrian plodding along staring at their feet.

Both my boys noted and made snide comments about walking into trees walls, cars or whatever.

I think I am getting through to them!!

My dear wife on the other hand....

Anonymous said...

they walk and push a cart with the same care and concentration they apply to their driving ...
i've had so many near misses in the aisles of the quickee-mart that i've started doing my shopping at 4am on sunday...
people have become so stupid that we will have to test for a permit to walk...

Bubblehead Les. said...

I'm Another One who doesn't like to sit with his back to the door, but I learned that lesson as a kid during a family vacation to South Dakota and saw in Deadwood where Bill Hickock DIDN'T follow that advice. But for all those Sheeple moving around in "Code Dopey", when the Shit Hits The Fan, THOSE are the Fools who get to try to see if "Evolution in Action" applies to them.

Anonymous said...

"The gene pool could use a bit of chlorine." Especially in Sacramento, CA.

Ulises from CA

Anonymous said...

All you need to do to understand how unaware people have become is talk to a firefighter.

Giant truck, painted the same color red as a classic femme fatale's lips, enough flashy-flash for three German discos, air horns, and 128 decibels of Federal Q and people still pull in front of them.

I would love to hear somebody try to explain how they didn't notice 15 tons of screaming, flashing, red thirty feet away.


Then I would like to smack the hell out of them with a large, slightly frozen salmon.

I wonder if they would notice?

Sarah said...

What really annoys me is that you can't teach somebody to pay attention without the aid of blunt-force trauma. I've tried to explain to my younger sister, but she can't hear me - must be the earbuds in her ears and iPhone surgically attached to her hands keeping the message from getting through.

Comrade E.B. Misfit said...

Stratfor has a decent article about situational awareness.

I suspect that one of the biggest evils is multitasking.

mikee said...

When I was 16 and very newly licensed to drive, I rode my mom's Mercury Comet into a ditch whilst trying to find my favorite radio station. About two blocks from home. Around the time my meighbors were all driving that same street coming home. The local wrecker got an extra $20 for his fast response, before anyone I knew saw me parked in the ditch.

Back in the old days you see, we didn't blame a particular tool, appliance, or operating mode for our own stupid inattention. We took responsibility for our own stupidity, darn it!

As for the Comet, it later lost a hubcap when I went around a corner a bit too fast and bounced the two offside wheels a bit hard on the landing. My brother claimed to have gotten the car completely airborne.

Good times, good times.

Dubber308 said...

A couple of months ago I was perusing the beer assortment at the local grocery store. I notice this rather large and ugly monstrosity stomping down the aisle towards me. "WHO THE F*** DO YOU THINK YOU ARE??!!! IF I GET MY HANDS ON YOU I'M GONNA WRING YOUR F***ING NECK!!!"
At this point I'm thinking "Who is this asshole?" and "Do I run or shoot this sumbitch?" I start backing down the aisle, he follows me. I reach for my pistol and keep backing up. "F*** YOU, SYLVIA!!" Who the hell is Sylvia? Then his eyes lock with mine and "What the hell do you want?" I notice one of those stupid bluetooth thing-a-ma-jig sticking out of the side of his head. He steps around me with an annoyed grunt and continues his loud argument with Sylvia. This moron has no idea how close he came to being dead.
Dubber308

Noah D said...

I would love to hear somebody try to explain how they didn't notice 15 tons of screaming, flashing, red thirty feet away.

Modern cars and their sound-proofing. Granted, not 30 feet, but disturbingly close, I still can't hear a siren.

Andrew said...

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!" - Ferris Bueller

"...but it might not miss you!" - Andrew Rothman

Anonymous said...

Another one who hates having her back to a door - got jumped that way. Once. And yeah, although I will confess to walking laps with an MP3 player in my ears, if I can't hear birdsong and the sound of my steps over it, I turn it down. And my head is always on a swivel. No cell in a running car, either.
LittleRed1

Anonymous said...

darwin needs to be worked overtime 24/7/365+...

Anonymous said...

the majority of people i meet out here in commiefaggua would would lose a doorknob turning contest if their only competitor was a brick...
i really think that the peak of the bell curve for the USA rests at around 60...

George said...

I used to know a guy who called reading a book-as in a library or coffee shop-'Condition Grey', one step below white.

wv - emorses: use of Morse Code while texting (cross-generational)

GuardDuck said...

Was doing some part-time bouncing this spring. Not a week went by without seeing somebody texting and walk into a door or into the opposing team's restroom.

Will said...

DirtCrashr,

consider adding airhorns to your vehicle. hook the input up to your regular horns. The half second or so it takes the compressor to spin up gives you the ability to toot the horn normally, or hold it down to get tootWAAAAA!!! I used to have this setup on a Guzzi many years ago. Erring drivers would suddenly be frantically searching for that big rig they overlooked. Had one deserving idiot actually drive off the road, I scared him so much! The fact that I was only a few feet behind his open window when he heard multiple vehicles horns go off may have been a factor. :)

Diesel said...

I enjoy those oblivious people in supermarkets. I'm 6'6" 300+ lbs, and have no compunction about running people over. They get the idea when they bounce off of me after merging without looking first.

Anonymous said...

Will:

Had a nice air horn setup on my little Honda 400-4 back when I was going to school. Pretty much saved me once. A taxi driver tried to change lanes into me on the (elevated) Alaska Way viaduct. No place to go, so I hit the horn. Never seen a car try to get out of the way so fast in my life. Good thing too, as the pavement was wet, and those old 400-4s had a stainless steel front disk - about as useful in the rain as the brakes on the front of a flat tracker.

BoxStockRacer

JimB said...

A week or so in Ramsey,NJ a 20 somthing young woman while texting and listening to her I-pod walked around the closed RR crossing barrier and was struck by an east bound express passenger train. Sometimes stupid doesn't get a second chance...

JimB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will said...

Boxstr,
similar situation. The 4 shoe front brake on my first v7 Sport was a joke, which contributed to my location. Plus the tallest rear gears of any model ever.

DirtCrashr said...

Will - yeh some Fiamm horns would be nice, I put one on my YSR50 once!!
The F-150 horn sounds like a car or station-wagon, not a truck.
BoxStockRacer - one of my college roomies in Santa Cruz had a 400-4 Supersport, what a sweet bike!

Billy Beck said...

Driving down one of the local country lanes a couple of months ago, I observed a man running right down the middle of the road, facing away from me. I came up behind him and swerved around to the right because his course never deviated. He didn't even know I was on the planet until I pulled up next to him. He had earbuds in and could not hear a thing while he was *running right down the middle of the goddamned road*.

I let him know that it wasn't a smart thing to do, and that I would hate to have to come across his body out there, but thought better of it later. I think we could do with a lot less of those fools.

Anonymous said...

like all druggies and clueless idiots, they should be lobotomized and shipped to penal battalions where they can be taught to tap-dance for landmines ; thereby justifying their existence...

Shana said...

Saw a teenager on a bike yesterday riding in the street towards oncoming traffic, with his HEAD DOWN, texting! I swung wide when I went by him but still almost hit him because he swerved at me at the last second when he hit a bump. Watched him in the rearview afterwards and saw him swerve into traffic 4 or 5 more times. I never saw him look up even once. And don't you know, if someone HAD hit him, it would have been "their fault"! <---Sarcasm

OTOH, I have to confess to landing on the hood of a parked car when I was a kid, too. I was looking at my pedals, don't remember why, and next thing I knew I was sprawled out on the hood! (looked around to make sure nobody saw me, haha!) But I suppose it was better to learn that lesson on a parked car than a moving one!

Will said...

I'll have to confess to a bicycle/vehicle sudden interface as a kid. About 1959 in Homestead, FL. About 7 years old, pedaling to school in the morning (about a three mile ride, I'm told). Crossing train tracks, I rode directly into the front of a pickup that was stopped. I was probably looking down the tracks, I guess. Wasn't much of anything out there, then.
I must have had some visible effects, because when I got to school, they called my mom to pick me up. No idea how I got to school, if the bike was rideable or what.

Shana said...

And all these years I thought I was the only one, LOL!

Anonymous said...

Dirtcrashr:

Mine's still in the garage - 89,000 miles on it, and on it's third cam chain. Sadly, it looks it too, as it was my only transport for six years before I started racing. The local shop said drilling holes in the disk would help, so we had it swiss-cheesed. Result was it at least didn't feel like I was going faster when I put the brake on in the rain. Very limited braking power though. I had to resort to keeping a goodly amount of pressure on the brake in the rain to keep it hot enough to boil off the water so it would work. Very tiring, but much safer.

BoxStockRacer

Anonymous said...

Along a similar vein, thought you might like this Noonan column, though you may have seen it already:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704476104575439913190836560.html

cheers, erich martell
albuquerque nm

Dave said...

D - I'm about the same size, but I'm not an asshole, so I keep an eye out for potential collisions and avoid them.