On the need to concentrate on survival

I saw this very sad story on MSNBC.com today. It details the death of 18-year-old Taylor Sauer, a Utah State freshman, and the aftereffects of her death as a cautionary tale that provokes the deadly dangers of texting while driving. Sauer, a 3.9 GPA National Merit Scholar, was certainly no dummy. During her fatal 4-hour drive between Logan, Utah, and Caldwell, Idaho, investigators estimated she was posting to Facebook every 90 seconds during the lonely night drive. Ironically, one of her final posts was, “I can’t discuss this [Denver Broncos football] now. Driving and facebooking is not safe! Haha.” A short while later she plowed into a slow moving big rig that was scaling a hill at 15 mph while she was hurtling forward at 80 mph. She was killed instantly and crash investigators found no sign she braked. We can only conclude that as she was gaining on the truck at essentially 65 mph on the dark highway, she was completely focused on her phone texts. The results were tragic for the pretty young girl with such a bright future.

The MSNBC story talks about the campaign her parents, Clay and Shauna Sauer, have kicked off to lobby Idaho’s state legislature to pass a law that would specifically make texting and driving illegal. Idaho is one of 13 states that lack such laws. Using the heart-wrenching details of their young daughter’s death, they hope to bring awareness of the dangers of texting and driving to the public at large.

That said, I don’t wish to get into the propriety or usefulness of such a plainly obvious movement. This may be the natural inclination of any parent who loses a child in such a sudden, needless manner; we want our children’s death to count for something so we resort to the obvious moral of the story left in death’s wake. In this case, Taylor’s death was the unmistakable confluence of many bad choices on her part. No use condemning her. We all make bad choices throughout our life but most of us don’t pay the ultimate price. If passing such legislation and bringing the circumstances of Taylor’s accident make the Sauer’s feel better, more power to them. They’ve been through a horrible loss.

I personally find it amazing that we need laws to force us to use common sense. Lawyers, cops, judges, the civic bureaucracy profit from our trespasses, the ones that we should obey not because of the threat of fines and traffic school, but because it’s just simple common sense and precaution. The more we ask our government to hold our hand and wipe our ass, the more emboldened it feels in seeking control over all minute aspects of our life. The government and lawmakers never just take an inch happily. Never. The more helpless we seek their guidance, the more they happily devote themselves to helping us save ourselves.

What caught my eye about this story was something Taylor’s mother, Shauna, told the reporter. It is so true and trumps all the feel-good legislation our government can pump into our veins. In recalling her daughter’s ambitions and achievements and her utlimate fate which was instigated in part by the common practice of so many young people today which involves simultaneously doing as many things as possible, further enabled by the “wonders” of modern technology, Shana Sauer said, “There was a time when we were all able to get into a car and drive, and listen to the radio or talk to our family. Now, we feel like we’ve got to get just everything done in the car, and I just think we need to be a little bit…simpler.”

This gets to the heart of the issue!

We always must be doing, doing, doing. We take the world on the road with us. I work with goblins who carry their company-issued Blackberry and laptop everywhere and respond to emails on weekends or at 4:30 in the morning.

I am constantly avoiding people who cannot take a moment to look up from their smart phone as they clamor along downtown sidewalks.

Everything is now and must be handled now. NOW. As the powers of technology shrink the world, they also shrink time. Everything must happen now and we soon believe we are superhuman but it is a lie. We are still sadly human and though our machines lie in our ear and tell us we can do everything at once, we are sorely incapable of it. Our minds have surpassed our own physical capabilities.

Yes, there was a time we all hopped in the car, turned the radio up, the windows down, and drove mindfully with scattered conversations disrupting the monotony. There was no auxiliary input, no “Link” or Bluetooth garbage. The car was a vehicle, not an office. When we left the house, we truly “left.” Meaning, we left that sliver of the world behind and there were many people we didn’t see or talk to but we were fine with this. We didn’t need to be in everybody’s business 24/7. Most people are not that interesting.

What about ourselves? Perhaps we need to pass laws requiring us to genuinely concentrate on our own survival and live life according to such.