TO GAPE OR NOT TO GAPE, AND OTHER ANNOYING HABITS DISPLAYED IN PUBLIC
News Radio 780 WBBM in Chicago has traffic reports every ten minutes or so, pretty accurately. Those reports can be detailed or only a few seconds, depending on what part of the hour they occur in, what is breaking news or really tragic, or if there is a fire or police response closing down streets or creating hazardous situations.
Mostly the traffic reports focus on the expressways and tollways in the Chicago area, and we have many major roads that cross our part of the state. Tens of thousands of people travel these highways every day, and they go on the minutes, the hours, through traffic jams, rough weather, long commutes and the dark of night. We hear about the travel times and what might be causing this or that incident and traffic backlog. And we hear of something else, too, besides the overturned trucks, the first responders, the police activity and the reports from the choppers and planes.
We hear about a particularly bad driver called a GAPER. Gaper, as in aper with a g at the beginning, someone who imitates another person’s habits whether good or bad. In this case though, there is nothing good about being a gaper or getting caught in a line of cars started by a gaper. “With gapers to the outbound incident”, the traffic reporter will say, and inevitably there is a backlog of traffic on that side too, away from the incident scene. Gapers are not the kind of person you want to be around when you need to get home, to work, to an important meeting, or to the airport.
Gaping is a very bad habit, as are many we display on the roads, such as one that particularly annoys me and people I know who are concerned with pedestrian safety. That is people who stop right in the crosswalks when they decide not to go through a yellow light. They need to pay more attention to where they are so that they do not intrude on the pedstrian crossing, rendering it dangerous for people who will then need to go around the automobile and might have to then weave in and out of the line of cars. That might be hard for someone with a stroller or in a wheelchair or an elderly person who needs a clear path without obstacles. I had an idiot get angry with me when HE was the one who put his ugly Range Rover clean out into the crosswalk and said he couldn’t stop in time. Pay more attention next time you are on the road, buster, and if you don’t perhaps the law will find you next time you decide to let arrogance and pride take over common sense driving.
It is also in poor taste to turn in a crosswalk when the pedestrian walk sign is illuminated. You can wait those few seconds; you do not have to put someone’s life in danger for your little errand or rushing about. If you feel rushed about then you need probably to organize your schedule and have some discipline so that you do not let your daily life infringe on the safety and security of others especially on the roads where many people share that same few feet of space and use vehicles that weigh tons and are moving, yes, moving and only the driver can stop them in time. Depending on conditons, the driver might be able to stop in time, but that is not always the case. Pedestrians get hit and killed in the Chicago area too many times because someone was careless and arrogant and a bad driver.
Human behavior is a complicated issue and one which should be a major area of study for everybody, not just the scientists and doctors in the major university or medical institutions of this nation. Because we all behave, because behavior is every action, thought and word and instinct we display in public or private, human behavior is and always will be a topic of study and discussion.
Gapers would do best by just driving on and following the rules of the road so they do not interfere with those behind them and create unsafe road conditions. They need simply to keep their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, ears free of electronic distractions and feet where they can get to the gas or the brake; they need to pay attention to the instructions of the law enforcers or traffic management personnel. In short, folks, just DRIVE already and don’t bother about what does not concern you.
Divi Logan, Nashville and Chicago, 2013.