It's amazing to me how the Internet, blogs in particular, can bring out the arrogance in us all. Somehow we all think we are smarter than everyone else and anyone who doesn't fit into our social group must be 'stupid'. Now, I am not pointing any fingers – everyone who knows me will gladly testify that I do more than my share of finger pointing and mocking, but a person must be careful.
Now I'm not going to give my opinion of who the 'stupid' one was in this situation. I'm not going to make any kind of value judgement about the well meaning gentleman who kindly attempted to help out a stranger. Nor am I going to criticize a person who would make snap stereotypical judgements about a person based solely on the vehicle they drive and their manner of dress while said person is operating an unsafe automobile. Instead I'm going to share an anecdote about my experience with broken brake lights.
About 10 years ago I was living with four friends. I was young, between jobs, and working for my Dad on the farm. Needless to say I wasn't exactly swimming with cash, so my choice of automobile was a 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Now it just so happened that the brake lights didn't work in this car. Taillights were fine, but there were NO brake lights. I tried to fix it a couple times, but couldn't ever figure out what was wrong. Not having the money to get it fixed by a professional, I'm ashamed to say, I just drove it that way. The best I could do was try to pull the headlights on when I was coming to a stop to give the drivers behind some warning.
This was all well and good until one fateful sunday morning. I was on my way to church and headed out of town on the main two lane highway. There was a dirt road shortcut I could take a left on, so when I got to the intersection I stopped to wait for traffic to clear. Now this road was busy then (and is even busier now – not that it matters for this story. It was in a semi-rural area at the time and there was a large drop off of 6-10 feet on the right side of the road down into an irrigation ditch, kind of a gully.
While I innocently sat waiting for traffic I failed to notice the car behind me. As I made my left turn I glanced in the rearview mirror. To my horror I watched the top half of a car dissappear in a cloud of dust of the opposite side of the road. Some innocent driver had not seen my car stopped, probably due to my lack of brake lights, and at the last second drove his car off the shoulder and into the chasm beyond.
With a snap judgement I determined that there were other cars around who would stop to help and I would probably go to jail for causing an accident if I turned around, so I proceeded on my merry way. Again, not a decision I am proud of. I spent the next hour or so sitting in the back of the church, waiting for uniformed law enforcement officers to appear and cart me away. Fortunately for me this never happened. In fact I never even found out what happened. Nothing ever made the papers, so I assume that the people in the car were OK.
As I was thinking about sharing this story this afternoon a thought occured to me. While I didn't think about it at the time, in retrospect the driver's decision to, literally, ditch the car could be the only reason I'm here right now. Being rearended at 50 mph probably would not have been good for my health. I did learn a lesson from this incident and shortly thereafter found another means of transportation.
The moral of this story is, if you are driving around without brake lights, get them fixed. The life you save may be your own.