It is possible to go through life just “living” it. It is possible to observe yourself living as you live, as well.
At some point I chose the latter, not consciously at all, but inadvertently, when I began studying meditation years back.
One fruit of meditation is that you are generally aware not only of what you are doing and what is happening to you, but of what you are actually thinking when all this is going on.
As a result, I can tell you why I got into an accident on March 5th, 2011.
Normally, I do not drive into intersections when other cars seem to be on a collision course with the car I’m in. On March the 5th 2011 I did.
I did because I was experiencing an unnatural high. I was euphoric. I had heightened enthusiasm, I was full of optimism. I had a warm glow all over. I felt as if no harm could possibly come to me.
I was, in short, being injected with a loud dose of stupid advertising from the back seat.
I don’t know what the product was, or who was pitching it; I only know that I had lost the ability to think critically.
The TV advertising tube that was installed by mandate in all New York City cabs a few years ago aims at one thing : bringing money in. (Just who it brings money in for, is another question for another time.)
Any assumption on the part of the passenger that the tube is meant to disseminate useful information or edifying content is foolish indeed.
The TV generates revenue, because people (companies) will pay to have their wares advertised over it. (As people from advertising have advised me, at 5 to 7 million taxi passengers a week, the industry can offer advertisers massive exposure — something they are willing to pay for.)
And so, sometime between late 2007 and late 2008, under the cover of creating credit card capability for passengers, the city slipped an ugly mechanism into the back seats of all yellow cabs.
Headaches, fatigue, and jangled nerves for drivers, as well as discomfort, annoyance, and frequent nausea for passengers, has been the end result.
But not the only end result.
Isn’t it just common sense that repeated distractions make driving unsafe?
So, to return to march 5th, 2011 …
On that night, around midnight, I found myself in the Meat-Packing District, waiting at a red light. (All well and good –nothing unusual there.) When the light turned green, I pulled slowly into the intersection. (Everything fine so far.) Approaching from the right, perpendicular to my car, and seeming not to be slowing down at all, was another car, also headed into the intersection.
Now, ordinarily, I would have slowed down, mistrusting this other driver, because he (or she) didn’t seem to know what he or she was doing.
— It’s like this : I had learned long ago to drive “defensively,” which is to say, to be careful not only to obey the law and drive attentively yourself, but to watch out for what other drivers might do to cause trouble : that is, to be on guard against the unforeseen, constantly.
It’s the only way to protect yourself from getting into an accident.
I should have hesitated, foot on the break, ready to respond in case this other car kept on coming.
Instead, however, on this night, I distinctly remember saying to myself : “Oh don’t worry, they’re not going to run a red light and cause an accident. That would be ridiculous.”
Ke-e-e-e-e-rash-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ———- !
… Fancy sound effects aside, this is what happened :
Having given up the idea of getting through to a talkative group of twenty-somethings in the backseat, I neglected to ask them — as I do virtually every other passenger — to kindly turn the TV off.
As a result, I was inundated with the inane compulsiveness of American advertising, and had become incapable of rational thought.
In order to program people to buy things, it’s helpful to raise their confidence level, even to outrageous levels if necessary. Music that is upbeat, a voice full of manic enthusiasm, an intrusive ambience of “good times” and “great opportunities” — all these make people eager to but the product at hand.
And what is wrong with that, you might ask.
The answer : it doesn’t mesh with driving a car.
As I said above, a certain skepticism and caution make for a good driver.
To be a good customer for advertising, on the other hand, it’s best to be loose, eager, unquestioning, unafraid. Yes, you’re going to buy that product, ’cause it’ll make you happy if you do, and you know it.
Doubts about its cost, usefulness, or maybe even its poisonousness are not to be asked.
On the other hand, if you’re driving into an intersection with another car coming at right angles to yours? Doubt is a really good idea.
Doubt was not available to me that evening. I was too busy being brainwashed by advertising.
So : four fairly shook-up passengers, especially the one riding shotgun, since that is where the other car impacted ours.
A crushed right front door, which will cost me 200 dollars or more.
An hour lost from work — i.e., more money lost …
You get the picture : a mess, and a costly one at that.
And all so that Mike Bloomberg’s people and associates can make some money for themselves. (As for who exactly is making the money? Despite mayoral claims that the city budget, for the first time in history, is perfectly “transparent,” and all its contents are fully available on the ‘net — it is impossible for the ordinary person to find this out. There is no accounting of it on the city’s “transparent” budget web site. So much for “transparency”!)
But there will be more on this …