Friday, August 18, 2023

Andy Young: Trying to make sense of the incomprehensible

By Andy Young

I’ve been working diligently lately trying to comprehend the reasons behind ideas I have difficulty fathoming. But even with an open mind there are some things I still can’t fully grasp.

I understand why it’s currently road construction season around here. Repairing Maine’s highways and byways during the winter months obviously isn’t feasible. But I struggle with what prompts the sort of behavior I observed on a recent cycling trip. I was astride my bicycle waiting for a yellow-helmeted worker to wave me forward on a local road that temporarily consisted of one lane.

The woman in the SUV next to me was tapping out a message on her cellphone, but more concerning to me was the fact that she continued to do so without looking up as she began accelerating once the flagman turned his sign from “Stop” to “Proceed with Caution.”

I’ve long since accepted there’s a lot I don’t understand. For example, I never got why anyone would, after sober consideration, consciously decide to begin using tobacco products. I don’t know how anyone would think it’s okay to toss bottles, cans, or other detritus out their car windows, rather than disposing of them properly.

I also don’t understand why some folks elect to embellish their appearance doing anything involving needles, and I don’t get how anyone can enjoy eating ghost peppers, which are allegedly 170 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.

However, while I cannot grasp why anyone would decide to begin smoking or chewing tobacco, I fully understand why some people find these products alluring. The soulless individuals running Big Tobacco corporations justify their obscene profits by reasoning they’re providing employment for thousands of workers, and the mercenaries hired to market their products are exceptionally good at what they do.

Americans have the freedom to make choices, and if enjoying commodities that are poisonous even when used correctly is their desire, they are free to do so.

I cannot imagine myself ever littering but judging by what I see along the sides of far too many local roads, many others feel differently. However, I believe I fully understand trash-strewers’ three-part motivation: selfishness, entitlement, and lack of respect for, in no particular order, the environment, other people, animals, and themselves.

As for those who voluntarily allow themselves to be pricked by sharp needles in order to alter their appearance, my guess is they do it for the same reason most people opt to do anything out of the ordinary: to manufacture visual evidence verifying to themselves and the world that they do in fact matter.

Some do this by dyeing their hair blue; others cover themselves with tattoos, or wear jewelry in decidedly non-traditional places. A few oddballs even resort to writing weekly newspaper columns in order to verify their own significance!

But try as I might, I cannot find any justification for using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. Considerate smokers who light up away from others correctly point out they’re only harming themselves, and litterers reason their little sin doesn’t hurt anyone directly.

But distracted drivers aren’t just putting themselves at risk; technology-based inattention can irreparably change the lives of other drivers, pedestrians, animals and, as I ruefully considered last week, cyclists whose paths they cross.

Even the new and improved, open-minded me truly doesn’t understand how or why people use cell phones to text message, play video games, or otherwise electronically entertain themselves while operating a motor vehicle. To me that sort of behavior is truly an enigma within a conundrum.

Which, like ingesting ghost peppers, remains yet another thing I don’t understand. <

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