There’s a Light That Never Goes Out

My slave does most of the driving when we are together.  I realize that having the slave drive is atypical but as we travel I prefer to be able to freely observe whatever may catch my eye without all of the unavoidable distractions of driving.

This is especially true whenever we pass an accident.  While most decry the tendency to rubberneck at an accident scene, I think that rubbernecking is as a natural human reaction.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, we want to assess any such situation and determine if we are in any immediate danger.  If we can determine that we are not in jeopardy, people have a natural fascination with carnage that is unlikely to change.

For a long time I have also believed that American television media has only encouraged our tendency to rubberneck at accident scenes.  While it is true that television media devotes an exception amount of airtime to stories that involve death, injury, and mayhem (a tendency captured in the oft-repeated mantra of “If it bleeds, it leads”), the reality is that American television sterilizes any sense of carnage.  While American television media may show up at accident scenes, the images they show are invariably sanitized versions of what actually happened.  For example at a fatal accident scene, the images used in the reporting are typically interviews with law enforcement officials, pictures of traffic delays caused by the accident, images of police and fire vehicles with their lights flashing, and interviews with witnesses who were not seriously injured by the accident.  Conspicuous by their absence are images of the seriously injured or the emotionally overwrought.

While I am sure that American news media would claim that they remove these images to avoid disturbing or frightening viewers, there is little doubt in my mind that viewers crave to see these images. Their absence creates a barrier by which we minimize the severity of all manner of negative things.

Determining whether or not the tendency to censor such images is uniquely an American approach to reporting would require more research than I care to devote to the topic.  However, I have had the opportunity to watch television from Mexico and Latin America that shows this approach is not universal.  When Mexican television news covers such accidents, they broadcast much more direct images of accident victims and show the human toll accidents cause in far greater detail. In fact it is not unusual for Mexican television news to follow ambulances to hospitals and broadcast pictures of victim’s families in various states of grief.  While most Americans might find such reports exploitative, they serve as stark reminders that accidents and grief throw the lives of victims and their families into chaos.  By sterilizing these events, American media tends to remove their impact such that they have little more emotional involvement for the viewer than a sports score.

But I digress.  My mother passed away last month, three days before my fortieth birthday.  That makes me of the age that when I was a baby most people didn’t use seatbelts and no one used car seats.  A baby in a car was either in a baby carrier in the back seat or more likely in his mother’s unbelted arms as dad drove the family sedan down the road with a paper bag wrapped Schlitz tallboy in the hand he used to wave to any passing policemen.

As I grew older, I would sit in the front seat as mom drove to and fro.  I sat there unbuckled and free to roll down the window to feel the air on my face and frighten my mother who pictured me leaping from the Gremlin as we travelled down the road at 70 mph.  Mostly I sat in the front seat reading road signs or babbling about whatever it is that an elementary school-aged me would babble on about.

Despite her claims to the contrary, mom was not the greatest driver in the world – a fact that doubtlessly contributed to the car accident that left her paralyzed 10 years before she passed.  As we were out driving mom would occasionally have to stop the car suddenly for any number of reasons (none of which were ever her fault).  Whenever mom would brake suddenly, she would instinctively reach out her arm to brace me from both the sudden deceleration of braking and the imminent threat that I would become some sort of prepubescent projectile being launched through the windshield.

Even though this act was a virtually pointless endeavor whose end result was a tiny me being whacked in the ribs, I knew then, as I know now, that she did this out of love and concern for my safety.  She dreaded the thought of her little boy being injured in an accident (which one would think would make her buckle me in the seatbelt, but that is another story for another time) so she would use her mom belt to keep me out of harm’s way.

As I grew older and would ride with mom, I could always count on her to use her mom belt anytime the car would brake suddenly.  This was slightly embarrassing to me as a teenager as I was sure that I could take care of myself.  She persisted in this habit as I turned into an adult using a seat belt even though the only likely outcome in an actual crash would be that she would break her arm.

Once after her accident, we were driving in her modified van when she braked suddenly.  Then as always, out came the arm to brace me for the impact.  Even though I was old enough that I should have seen this as a loving act from a mother who still wanted to protect her little boy, I couldn’t help but realize that her modified van required two arms to drive, one to brake/accelerate and the other to steer.  When I saw her arm headed towards my chest, I was terrified as I knew that “Jesus is my co-pilot” went from cheesy metaphor to an excited utterance of, “Jesus get the wheel!”  Thinking back about it, I do find it sweet that no matter what had happened she still wanted to take care of me before herself.

The other day my slave and I were driving home when she had to break quickly.  This wasn’t the sort of stop where one slams on the brakes, but rather the sort where there is less than might be comfortable.  Just as she pressed on the brake to slow the car, my slave instinctively reached out with a mom belt of her own to brace me from whatever might happen.

Afterwards, we both laughed as we discussed how the only likely outcome of her mom belt in a crash would be a broken arm.  I couldn’t help but be reminded of my mother’s love and caring for me.  I was also reminded that I have a slave who loves me that much too and I am grateful that I can count on her to give me a mom belt as we go down the road that is life together.

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