Monday, February 28, 2011


 Robert Heinlein ended up being half-way right. The part he missed is that we don't just vote for bread and circuses these days, we also buy our bread and circuses. Our comforts and our distractions.

I've been fighting my own efficiency for a long, long time. There's some part of me that is petrified of what would happen if I were done early. If my work, efficiently executed, did not constitute the whole day. If my weekends were not full of entertainment, my ears full of music, my head full of thoughts. Petrified of stillness, to the point of avoiding it at all costs. To the point of filling the day with distractions.

This is made entirely possible by technology. The technology which enables one person to grow enough food for many, the technology which replaces household drudgery, the technology which gives us light at night and company in the stillness. This enables us to have both extra time, and the entertainments with which we fill the time.

I am terrified of extra time, so I turn to my distractions and I turn to inefficiency.

A few weekends ago while shopping I came across what I think of as the uniqueness of the Sandpoint area; a visiting Japanese family in high fashion, obviously on a ski vacation, in line behind a Hutterite family with 6 boys and 5 girls. The Japanese family clearly experienced culture shock; the Hutterites not so much.

Bonner county is an outdoor paradise settled with loggers, miners, trappers, railmen, prostitutes, and persecuted minority groups. We still have a large population of Anabaptists of all creeds, as well other formerly persecuted sects. This leads to a population which is, ahem, difficult to govern.

Lately I've spent much time researching the various Anabaptist groups in an attempt to understand the people around me, which has led to much research concerning the Amish (by far the most written about group). As a whole, their days are filled with efficient work with palpable results and free time without all the technology we use to fill it.

In all my reading, I've come to one inescapable thought; my attachment of inefficiency and technology to fill the time is a deep-seated fear of what I would find if I just stopped moving.

During this time life has also thrust, very clearly in my face, the fact that many people are unprepared and ill-educated, some intentionally so. Between the large number of VERY intelligent people I know who do not know the simplest, most necessary things and the population at large, it's become quite clear to me that people are willfully ignorant. That beyond their bread and circuses they do not have much curiosity in the world at large.

I've been guilty of willful ignorance myself, as well as the inability to see beyond my own nose. In many ways, I think what I'm terrified of is stopping and finding that I'm actually far more ignorant and far more boring than I think.

Worse, I think I would open my eyes and be forced to see that in reality, so is everyone else.

I think that is what the distractions keep us from seeing, those things that would scare us, that would make us rethink everything we know, those things that would prove us wrong.

I'm going to toss the distractions and find out.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Well, We ALMOST Escaped Winter Unscathed...

The Dodge Earth Sodomizer and I almost got in a major accident today. Almost.

While northbound on the US 95 headed home from Hayden, the weather got the best of a poor little black sedan headed south. I was driving a reasonable following distance behind another 3/4 ton hauling an rv. I saw the black sedan hit the black ice at 65mph and cross into oncoming traffic.

The driver of the 3/4 ton ahead of me managed to pull onto the shoulder so instead of getting hit head on he got hit on the tail end of the rv instead. I managed to pull over to the shoulder into a snow bank and escape getting hit head on myself (barely).

I watched the black sedan pass me, still swerving, and go into the ditch on the side of the road about a 1/4 mile down. Several vehicles pulled over to check on them. I pulled over and called 911 immediately. The dispatcher asked me to check on the driver of the truck pulling the rv so I pulled in behind him and found that the elderly man and his wife were okay. I waited by the side of the road, safely pulled onto the shoulder, for emergency services to show up.

After they showed up I finally noticed the damage to the Dodge Earth Sodomizer. The snow bank had caved in the lower portion of the rear passenger side door.

Compared to the damage that could have happened if I'd let the car hit me head on (which would have happened if I hadn't pulled myself onto the shoulder) I think I got off easy.

Certainly our insurance agent (and neighbor) is much happier with that outcome.

The rv in front of me was trashed (it actually got pulled partially into the ditch and into the reflective markers), the truck pulling it lost one of his equalizer bars,  and our truck's door got dinged, but nobody was hurt or killed. We got off easy.

Several things I learned from this experience:
  • 99% of drivers in North Idaho are responsible winter drivers. It's that 1% that's the issue.
  • Thank God Chris taught me how to drive on the ice early on in the season. Because I'd internalized "smooth and deliberate" I was able to avoid an accident without losing traction myself.
  • Since it was snowing and I was pretty sure there was ice on the road (it was 21 degrees out) I kept the truck in 4 wheel drive lock. If I hadn't already been in 4 wheel drive my emergency evasion would not have turned out as well.
  • Since I've been dressing for the weather and not for the heated truck I was VERY comfortable standing on the side of the road for an hour in 4 inches of snow. Shearling boots, wool socks, good jeans, and a coat rated to 20 degrees are all good things.
  • Good batteries (in this case 2 of them) make it so you don't worry about how long your emergency flashers will be on.
  • A GPS, even on a familiar route, will enable you to tell dispatch EXACTLY which two rural roads you happen to be between.
  • Emergency blankets and supplies kept in a truck enabled me to offer the elderly woman a warm blanket while she was waiting. If I wasn't dressed as well as I had been I would have been in need of a blanket too.
  • A personal relationship with our insurance agent and his phone number in our cell phones enabled Chris to call him after he got off the phone with me and meant he was at our house shortly after I got home to get the info and get the process started and off my mind.
  • Bonner County Sheriff's Office and Fire Department are some of the nicest guys on the planet.
This could have ended up much worse. I'm glad that both our truck and the truck in front of me managed to avoid a worse accident, because even though the accident wasn't either of our faults that wouldn't have made the possible death of the car's driver any less traumatic. Thank God we both managed to avoid a head on collision.