Judging a Book by It’s Cover.
This is a true story—about a lesson I learned at a young age. It might not be the best example of judging a book by its cover—but I got the point regardless.
A friend and I were driving south on US 19 to head to Tarpon Springs. We figured it would take us an hour to go 20 miles with the traffic congestion and that would give us plenty of time to make our planned event. We figured wrong. Snow birds had invaded from the north, making traffic conditions beyond horrific. Let’s just say, nothing would quite be the same after that day.
Back in 1989, US 19 was a six lane highway plagued with traffic lights every mile or so—and a system of dangerous median crosses about every 100 feet. It did not bode well for cross traffic and drivers who thought they could risk it all. During the winter, with the snowbirds down there, the congestion alone would build up from the sheer number of drivers on the road. Driver’s aren’t particularly friendly in these heavy traffic situations. Drivers’ and passengers' patience were constantly being tested. Add a few accidents occurring at various points on this highway, and you had a recipe for disaster
It was reported there was at least one death daily on US 19, back in the late 1980’s.
We were growing extremely frustrated with the traffic. In 40 minutes time we managed to travel 5 miles. Not what we were hoping for. We passed an extremely dangerous accident at one intersection—the kind that gives you goose bumps at the time and when you recall it later in life. We finally started to pick up some speed—maybe hitting 40 miles an hour…and that is when we noticed the fool in front of us driving like a complete drunk.
We made some off handed comments, while we watched this “drunk” driver swerve from one lane into the next—almost hitting traffic next to them. People were afraid to pass. They were honking and shouting at the driver. At one point, we all got caught up at a red light, and this driver decided to take off prior to the light turning green—making the cross traffic swerve to miss them. Everyone on the highway was in high defensive driving mode. The driver was erratical, unpredictable, and a death trap waiting to happen.
We noticed at one point the driver was an older woman—barely able to see above the steering wheel. Husband in the passenger seat. It made us wonder if he feared for his safety and if in fact he shouldn’t be the one driving? What was this lady’s deal? Had she been drinking? Did she need a phone book to sit on to see the road? A myriad of things crept through our minds, which we spoke aloud. All of a sudden, the lady made a sharp right turn, crossing 2 lanes of traffic moving the same direction and drove across a turning lane and ran right into a ditch.
Holy Moly! I had never seen anything like it before…but I lived it in the very next moment. That is when my friend did exactly what that old lady did—minus running us into a ditch. She gave a hard right, across several lanes of traffic, nearly killing me in the process to follow that car with the two old people. I knew my friend had a curious nature—I just never thought this was how she’d show it. Needless to say, my fingerprints were forever imprinted on her dashboard.
She threw the car in park, jumped out, and ran over to the car in the ditch. Before “road rage” was even a term, I had a feeling my friend was going to partake and let this lady have a piece of her mind. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My friend became a hero that day. At the very last second before heading her car over toward that ditch, she realized the lady wasn’t too old, too short, or too drunk to drive. She realized the lady was having medical issues.
I wondered what the hell had gotten into my friend? I sat in the car—while my friend ran up to that driver’s window and started beating on the window and shouting, “Are you okay? What is your name? How old are you? I’m going to go get help!” I sat there—my heart beating in my chest—wondering what in the world had gotten into my friend?? When I realized what she was doing, and then I felt completely shallow and foolish.
It’s easy to look at that idiot in traffic holding things up and even easier to call him a bunch of names for driving in an unsafe manner—but things aren’t always what they appear to be. Sometimes you have to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that person is suffering a medical emergency. Maybe that person needs help. I’m pretty certain in most cases, drivers are just in too much of a hurry and don’t care, but as I learned, it is not always the case.
The lady suffered a heart attack while driving. Her husband was legally blind and not fit to drive—and she had enough oxygen loss to the brain to cause her to drift in and out of consciousness. Thankfully she didn’t kill anyone in the process and she lived. But we were told she didn’t drive after that. My friend was a hero that day—I sat in the passenger seat—in shock of it all. We never made it to our planned event.
Judge a book by its cover—I still do it—but I learned a valuable lesson that day. Sometimes the book is worth investigating.