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Listen up, San Antonio! More road rage . . .

On July 27, just a few days ago, I posted a story about road rage and San Antonio drivers, and told my viewers of the time my daughter had a window shot out in her car while she was driving on North Loop 410 in San Antonio. Click here to read the full posting.

Our only daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, had two articles on road rage in today’s issue—a person died in each instance. As of this writing a 44-year-old man is in jail in San Antonio, charged with murder in the beating death of a 30-year-old man. On Sunday, the first day of August, 2010 the killer was forced to wait at a green light at an intersection when the victim stopped and exited his  vehicle to “pluck a flower.”

When he returned to his vehicle—we must assume that he plucked the flower—the killer followed him to a parking lot, confronted him and “punched him several times,” then slammed his head on the asphalt. The author of the article tells us that the killer’s “temper is alleged to have cost another man his life—and it could cost him his freedom.” Please note the word could, not would, and remember that this happened in San Antonio, Texas.

After the the Express-News “journalist” told us the murder could cost the killer his freedom, the victim was abandoned—we are not told whether the victim died instantly and was pronounced dead at the scene, or was dead on arrival at a hospital, or lingered between life and death in the intensive care unit and died at a certain time on a certain day. Instead the “journalist” continued with an in-depth discussion of the killer’s background, including his criminal record, his work record, his abusive treatment of his wife and numerous other sad facets of his life. The “journalist” quotes the killer’s wife as saying, “Maybe looking at the possibility of never coming home will give him time to really think about exactly what his temper and anger had caused.” Please note the words maybe and possibility, and remember that the incident happened in San Antonio, Texas.

We are told nothing about the man that died, whether married or unmarried, where or if he worked, absolutely nothing of his background, whether he had brothers or sisters or a father and a mother or perhaps a family of his own. The only things we know about him is that he was a man and was 30 years old and he stopped to pick a flower and is now dead.

My question to the “journalist” and to the editor is this: Why were we not not given any details about the dead man? The killer was given quite a bit of space in your paper—were the details of the victim not newsworthy?

The second article on road rage deals with the murder of a 23-year-old man, shot by a 62-year-old man following a minor accident, labeled a “fender bender” by the journalist. The jury could have given five years to life for the conviction—they chose to give him seven and one-half years and he will become eligible for parole after serving just one-half of his sentence. Other than a statement made by the mother of the dead man, we were told nothing of his background.

There are multiple morals to these stories, including the fact that should you fall prey to road rage and lose your life, the sentence given to the killer will probably be light, and few details of your death will be printed. The public will know your name and age and little else, and the facts of your demise will occupy far less newspace than the killer’s actions.

There are other morals, namely, whatever you do, do not block traffic by stopping to pick a flower—not even an exotic orchid is worth your life. Don’t ever tailgate a driver because you feel he dissed you, and don’t ever cut in front too sharply for the same reason. Don’t ever flip a bird at a driver or return one that he flipped you, and don’t blow your horn unless it is absolutely necessary—and in my opinion it is virtually never necessary. If I had my way, horns on privately owned vehicles would be outlawed. I challenge any reader to describe a circumstance that absolutely requires a driver to press the horn button.

Don’t use the one about a driver coming at you traveling against traffic—blowing the horn won’t help. That driver is either too drunk to hear or to care, or is intent on committing suicide by motor vehicles—his and yours. If the driver ahead of you is asleep at a green light, either wait for him to awaken or, very carefully, back up and go around him. If you blow the horn he may be startled into instant action, regardless of the traffic situation. And if you’re thinking it’s his bad luck, think again. Another driver may hit you in his attempts to avoid the sleeper from hitting him.

I know I’m tilting at windmills on this subject. I know that people will continue to flip birds, hold up clenched fists, shout at other drivers, race around an offender and cut in too closely, follow too closely and blow the horn incessantly, and I also know that there is little sense in enumerating the myriad stupid things we tend to do when frustrated by the actions of others.

I know that we will continue to do those stupid things, and guess what?

We will continue to die.

And in Texas, light sentences will be given to our killers.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

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Letter to the editor, San Antonio Express-News: Listen up, San Antonio drivers!

Letter to the editor

San Antonio Express-News

P.O. Box 2171

San Antonio, TX 78297

Listen up, San Antonio drivers!

What you are about to read may prevent a collision that may seriously damage your automobile, including the possibility of it being totaled, and it could save you from incurring serious injuries sustained in a collision, and may even in some instances save your life—but only if you read and heed this message.

This is a tale of driver frustration and road rage, emotions that are daily demonstrated in every metropolitan city in the nation, but particularly in the Alamo city with its population second only to Houston in the state of Texas and seventh in the United States. There are numerous recordings of road rage in San Antonio, some that have caused major damage to vehicles and introduced death to some drivers.

A few years ago an elderly driver exited Loop 410 West, turned left under the expressway then left into HEB’s Market Place parking lot and parked. When he stepped out of his car he was shot dead by a driver that had followed him from the expressway. There were witnesses that noted an auto being closely followed into the parking lot by another auto, but none could positively identify the shooter or his car—to this day the murder is unsolved and probably will never be solved.

The consensus among investigating officials was that the elderly driver was an unknowing victim of road rage, having done something to infuriate the shooter. The elderly driver had perhaps failed to signal a turn or was following too closely or was proceeding at a leisurely pace on the city’s speedway known as Loop 410. Whatever the reason for the murder, one man is dead and the killer is free to kill again should the occasion arise in the future.

My daughter—a lovely lady, the youngest of my three equally lovely daughters—had the right rear window of her car shot out while traveling from work to home on Loop 410. She had no warning and could not tell the origin of the shot, but speculated it came from a car traveling beside her on the Loop or from someone off the side of the freeway. The window was still in place when she arrived home, albeit with a small hole in the center and cracks radiating in every direction. When we opened the door the window shattered into small pieces.

We called the police and a search was made of the rear seat area, but nothing was found that may have caused the damage. The police officer speculated that a lead pellet fired from a pellet gun had shattered the window, a pellet fired deliberately at the car or an errant pellet fired at some other target. Pellet guns don’t fire BBs—such guns are powerful and are used by hunters to kill small animals including rabbits, squirrels, birds and snakes. The pellets are heavy and are propelled at high speed with enough weight and power to penetrate a human skull—they can kill.

That pellet could just as easily have struck the right front window and hit my daughter or her friend that was by the right front window. This could have been an act by a juvenile following an I dare you taunt, or the act of someone my daughter or her friend had rebuffed at some time in the past, or perhaps someone that she or her friend had flipped a bird at on the freeway because of another driver’s action.

Please trust me, San Antonio—do not flip birds or make other obscene gestures at another driver. If you take such actions you are subject to having a window shattered or a bumper hooked, or be forced off the road, and you may die as a direct result of having angered someone that—please forgive the expression—you pissed off in some way.

Now to the gist of this posting:

I am an elderly driver—I freely admit that, and I endeavor to remember my status in all my actions, particularly in operating motor vehicles and guns. I don’t add guns as a threat—I just thought that I should mention that I am an accomplished shooter, including expertise with military weapons as well as those available to home owners, including shotguns and pistols, some with magnum capabilities. Oh, and I also have a pellet gun, an estate sale find I couldn’t resist.

No, I have never shot out the rear window or any window of an auto driven by a cute blond, or a cute brunette for that matter—and both are legion in this great city—nor have I ever been inclined to do so—I sometimes gawk at or wave at or—gasp—even wink at, but I do not shoot at such persons. And no, that’s not my photo—that’s one of the cute blonds I mentioned. I said I was an elderly driver, remember?

This morning I drove two miles or so to the Whataburger outlet nearest my home, the one located at the intersection of US Highway 281 North and Brook Hollow Drive. I stopped for a red light at the intersection of Brook Hollow and Heimer and stayed in the left lane. An SUV driven by a woman pulled up beside me in the right lane and stopped. I knew from experience gleaned over some twenty years of traversing that intersection that she would continue straight ahead when the light changed to green.

The street ahead had four lanes for a short half-block, but the right lane was provided to allow a driver crossing the intersection to turn right on a side street—-from that point the street narrowed to one lane in each direction. While the light was still red a second SUV pulled up behind the woman.

In anticipation of her accelerating to cross over to my lane, I moved out at a pace calculated to give her the space she needed—not sedately or at a crawl, but just enough to let her get ahead of me, and after she was in front of me I accelerated to the 35 MPH allowed in that area.

It wasn’t fast enough for the driver of the second SUV—he blew his horn repeatedly and then fell in behind me and stayed on my bumper until Brook Hollow Drive became a two lane in both directions and I signaled a left turn into Whataburger’s parking lot.

He immediately floored the SUV, passed me and turned sharply in front of me into my lane. I anticipated that action, the action of an idiot, and I braked enough to avoid our bumpers—my front and his rear—making contact. I was successful, and I turned into the parking lot while the SOB in the SUV continued under the 281 overpass and turned south on the access road toward downtown.

Our local news channels and our lone daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, routinely report similar instances. Many, perhaps most of such actions are those of gang members, but not all—some are simply a matter of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time or doing something—no matter whether deliberately or inadvertently—by voice or gesture or motioning or by vehicle operation, driving another person into such a rage that they wound and maim and even kill to get revenge for such actions.

In closing, remember that the life you save may be your own. Don’t respond to the actions of some SOB in an SUV, and be content by wishing that should that person be involved in a serious accident he—or she—will arrive at the hospital DOA.

No, I’ll take back the part of someone arriving at the hospital DOA. When I am faced with such churlish actions on the part of another driver, I say aloud to myself and to any others that may be riding with me that, Perhaps we will find that vehicle wrapped around a utility pole farther down the road, with the driver surviving with a few broken bones and a serious concussion, but no injuries to other occupants. No, I do not wish anyone to die, but I admit that I will not mourn for any appreciable amount of time if such occurs.

A final note: In the interests of full disclosure, I confess that I did not submit this letter to the editor. Over the years I have accumulated numerous rejections from that worthy, some of which—but not all—may have included a thought, or thoughts, that could possibly be considered criticisms of the paper. I don’t handle rejections well so I decided to appeal to a different audience—the highly erudite and always perceptive readers of my postings on Word Press.com. As of this posting I have never been rejected—not once—by Word Press.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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Catfish Alley, ten-cent hamburgers & the N-word . . .

The Varsity Theater was, and perhaps may still be, located at the intersection of Main and First Street. Main Street was the dividing line between north and south in Columbus, the county seat of Lowndes County, Mississippi. The first block of First Street South was called Catfish Alley, a block that was comprised mostly of black businesses—grocery stores, beer joints, rooming houses, eating places, clothing stores and other businesses—most, but not all, were owned and operated by blacks. Catfish Alley was the the prime gathering place for blacks, a mecca for those living inside and outside the city and from the countryside and from neighboring towns and cities. Shoppers and diners and gatherings included entire families during the daytime, but the block took on a different tone and attracted a different crowd after dark—rumors had it that more than one house of ill repute existed among the businesses in Catfish Alley, usually on the second floor of the two-story buildings.

Note that I use the term black—in those days there was no such term as African-American, at least not in the circles in which I moved. There were numerous terms used in those days to describe black people, used openly without fear of ridicule or persecution. The term most used was the same one used by black rappers today, a word that is never enunciated but identified only as the N-word, and at this point I will say, without hesitation, without rancor, without one ounce of racialism in my body and soul, an absence that was created many years ago through education, understanding and just plain living, that if one is going to say the N-word, one may as well use the real word. And in support of that choice I will quote the bard from Romeo and Juliet, followed by a well-known and oft-used religious homily:

That which we call a rose, by any other name will smell as sweet.

The thought is as bad as the deed.

I would add a third saying but this one is a no-no—it suggests that we should call a spade a spade, a phrase that has been around for more than 500 years. It means that we should speak honestly and directly about topics that others may avoid speaking about due to their sensitivity or embarrassing nature. According to Wikipedia, The phrase predates the use of the word “spade” as an ethnic slur against African-Americans, which was not recorded until 1928; however, in contemporary U.S. society, the idiom is often avoided due to potential confusion with the slur. Click here to read more about the history of the phrase, call a spade a spade.

The N-word is a substitute for the word Negro, its pronunciation corrupted, of course, by the southerners’ predilection to pronounce words ending in an O, or with the sound of an O, by replacing the O sound with er. Window, for example, becomes winder, pillow becomes piller, tallow becomes taller, shallow becomes shaller, fellow becomes feller, hollow becomes holler, ad infinitum.

Can you guess how Negro is pronounced? Yep, for many southerners the N-word is not tainted with racialism—it is simply a descriptive term, just as other persons are described as white. The N-word ends with an O, so the O is dropped and an er is added. And I’ll grant you that others use the word in all its pejorative sense, expressing contempt, disapproval and hatred with all the pent-up passion and racism that has in the past plunged our nation into civil war and which still exists, and such use of the word is not limited to southerners. Our nation has come a long way, especially since 1964 and the civil rights movement, but we still have a long way to go.

Check out this sentence: That N-word feller that lives across the holler in that house with no winders has to wade across a shaller creek to get to the store to buy a new piller and some animal taller to make candles. Now please be honest—to thine own self be true, so to speak—do you understand how some southerners pronounce words ending in O, and do you understand how the word Negro became, to a southerner, the N-word?

With full knowledge that I have convinced nobody—not even one person—with my explanation of the N-word as used by southerners, I will continue with my dissertation—or posting if you insist—on Catfish Alley and ten-cent hamburgers:

First Street in Columbus is on a bluff overlooking the Tombigbee River, a stream that in those days was teeming with fresh-water catfish, a choice item in the diet of southerners regardless of their race—fried catfish was a staple. Local fishermen kept the cafes and fish stands along Catfish Alley well supplied, and people came from near and far to buy fresh catfish for home cooking and consumption, hence the name Catfish Alley.

The going rate for hamburgers on Catfish Alley when I was a boy was ten cents. Hamburger buns came only in one size in those days—small. The huge ones we have today either did not exist or had not yet come to our town, perhaps late as so many changes were—drive-in theaters, for example. Click here for a posting on the ins and outs of drive-in theaters. The ten-centers stood head-and-shoulders above today’s What-a-Burger and its Just a burger with its thin patty, one pickle slice, a bit of minced onions and a smear of mustard—the ten-cent patties were ample and came, if wanted, with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion and one’s choice of mustard, ketchup or mayo in any combination.

But it gets better, because Catfish Alley had a competitor. Just a brief walk brought me and my fellow students from our high school at noon to the river’s edge where a lady dispensed five-cent burgers from a portable kitchen on wheels, burgers that had no tomato or lettuce or pickles or onions but featured a substantial hamburger patty—fifteen cents would get a student two burgers and a Pepsi or RC Cola or a Coke or a Grapette—most of us went for the 12-ounce sodas rather than the 6-ounce brands, an easy choice since the cost was the same. Ah, for the good old days!

Does anyone remember this jingle?

Pepsi Cola hits the spot
Twelve full ounces, that’s a lot
Twice as much for a nickel, too,
Pepsi Cola is the drink for you!

I make no apology, neither for myself nor for fellow southerners for past or present use of the N-word. My only point is that the real word is sometimes used without any thought of hatred or disliking, without a trace of racialism in the speaker’s mind or heart. I abhor its use when it involves prejudice, hatred, contempt, disdain, disgust or any other contemptible emotion on the part of the speaker. And one more thought—look at the use of F-word in place of the real word—a listener hears F-word, but can you guess which word forms in the listener’s mind? Yep, that word, the one with the letters U, C and K following the F, just as the phrase N-word is converted to a word that adds an I, a couple of Gs, an E and an R, a word that resounds in the listener’s brain with far more resonance than N-word to the ears.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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