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Insanity | Off Kilter


Last updated 7/6/2021 at 11:28am

The number of columns I have written is not really so interesting, but the things I’ve seen and heard while I’ve been writing newspaper columns really have, on occasion, brought me up short.

Albert Einstein used to say, “those who do the same thing over and over again – expecting a different result – that is the textbook definition of insanity.”

So what are some of these “textbook” definitions?

I’ll start with drivers in the Pacific Northwest. We have more than our fair share of precipitation (duh!) As an engineer, I know that the coefficient of friction between a car tire and the road will generally go down as the street gets wet. A number of things can exacerbate this. Over time, during a dry period, the rubber that wears off tires and the oil that may drip from a car as it gets warm sit on the pavement. When it first rains, those things can rise off the surface creating a slickness almost as slippery as an ice skating rink. So what happens? Going around a corner all of a sudden the car “lets loose” and slides completely out of control. Hitting something stationary is almost inevitable.

I have enjoyed reading the comments of these drivers. You almost always hear something like: “It wasn’t my fault. I was just driving and the car just went out of control.” Or: “I applied the brakes but the car just didn’t stop. And it (not me – it) ran into the car in front of me”. I just love it.

Or, the use of a cellphone while driving. This is against the law. But there you are, on I-5 doing 60 miles per hour. You glance over to the car in the other lane and you will see the driver busy texting on their cell phone. At that speed, in the 10 seconds they are not paying attention to the driving, their car travels nearly three football fields in length. So if the traffic suddenly stops, then WHAMO! Again, the driver will rarely admit they were texting.

Instead, you may hear: “The traffic suddenly stopped in front of me and it was impossible for me to stop.” Hey, clueless, there is a reason A) you should not text while driving and B) if you leave sufficient space between you and the car you are following, you can safely stop. Legally, in almost 100% of the cases, hitting the car in front of you is determined to be your fault.

And let’s not forget drinking and driving. There is a standard for being incapacitated while driving. In most states it is an alcohol content (using a breathalyzer) of over .08%.

So if you are stopped, and blow into the testing machine above that level, legally they will (probably) arrest you. Then you can count on a very steep fine, possible suspension of your license for some time period, possible jail time (if you are a habitual offender), and don’t forget the chance you could have an accident and kill someone (for which you will probably be charged with vehicular manslaughter). So what do you see when you review the video they make of you after being arrested? Often, the offender will (with very slurred words) say: “I only had a couple of beers.” They will be so afflicted, that they often can’t stand up. And yet they will insist that it really wasn’t that “big of a deal”.

Also, pets. I can’t tell you how many pet owners (especially of dogs) are unable to control their pets. They will leave the pet at home unattended, and can’t understand why the pet will relieve themselves in the house before they return home. Then to make matters worse, they will get mad at the dog, possibly push the dog’s nose into the “mess” they’ve made, saying: “Bad dog.” Of course, the dog has no idea why it is being chastised. They don’t have the capacity to connect their being yelled at to something they did a long while before.

Hey pet owner, what do you expect? If you have a dog and leave it at home alone for many hours every day (like when you go to work), exactly what do you expect will happen? If you have a fenced yard, install a doggie door in your house. That way at least the poor animal can get outside.

One of the greatest things about dogs is that they most often display unconditional love to the human that takes care of them. Now that is a behavior that Einstein would be proud of.


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