The late Art Buchwald, syndicated columnist and political satirist is – along with Mel Brooks and Dave Barry – among my favorite American humorists. A Pulitzer Prize winner and prolific writer, Buchwald had some forty titles under his belt and was said to have offered unsolicited advice to six Presidents of The United States, whether they wanted it or not.
How could one not admire a man with such credentials? Besides, we were fellow Trojans and both of us had written for Wampus, our campus humor magazine at USC. I was there much later than he was, of course.
Anyway, Buchwald’s twenty-first book, published in 1983, was called “You Can Fool All the People All the Time.” It’s a collection of typical Buchwald short takes ranging from why some people fear toy dolls to why more women prefer to hug Art Buchwald than go to bed with him. O
ne of these is entitled “55 MPH” in which he tells a tale of driving down a highway, obeying the posted speed limit, when on the CB this guy behind him starts threatening violence if he doesn’t go faster and break the law, which he doesn’t want to do.
Is it just me or are people in a lot bigger hurry today than ever before? I don’t know – it just seems to me as if everybody’s going at full throttle all the time whether they need to or not. And, if you’re not willing to do the same – they don’t like you.
I was stopped at a red light the other day. The light wasn’t green for more than a second when the guy behind me was on his horn and giving me the head-cocked, eyes-rolled-up, single palm-up signal as if to say, ”What’s the hold-up, jerk? Get it moving!” I mean, it does take a second or two to get your foot from the brake to the gas, right? My first reaction was to get out and deck the creep.
A little later I stopped at a stop sign. This time another guy behind me thought I should take a chance and go, even though the cross traffic was right on top of us. I have a motto about this that goes “If you don’t know, don’t go!” This time it was the “drum the fingers impatiently on the steering wheel and look skyward” routine like, “You think I got all day, punk?” This time I wanted to do what my buddy Roy did when we were sixteen.
He calmly got out, walked back to the other car, opened the door, and while the other driver looked on wide-eyed, reached in, took the keys out of the ignition and threw them into the tall grass across the street. Then he casually strolled back to our car, got in and we drove away. Of course, when Roy was sixteen he was six foot three and built like a tree trunk. But, situations like these can and often do escalate into dangerous road rage situations with serious consequences.
But, what I want to know is, where is all this impatience and aggression coming from? Does anyone really think that this kind of driving behavior will get them anyplace any sooner? Are parents teaching their kids this stuff?
In our material, cashless, hurry-up, throwaway world, have we just lost sight of the feelings of others? Have we really become that unfeeling? I think we have, and the way we act in our cars is just a manifestation of this. We see it every day all around us, don’t we?
In fact, I think that we have gotten so far removed from good human relations that we may never get back. So, here’s a suggestion: Find it online or get yourself a hard copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People – Revised Edition. Find a nice quiet place, take a deep breath, let it out slowly and read Chapter 4 called A Drop of Honey. In fact, if you can tear yourself away from the Smartphone long enough, read the whole book. I have. Five times! More than 15,000,000 copies sold, probably many more by now. Find out why.
I like the way Art Buchwald handled his highway situation. The tailgater was mad because he thought he would be late for Thanksgiving dinner at his mother’s house. Paraphrasing Buchwald, “I could never forgive myself if you got hurt while speeding” and he offered to call the man’s mother on his cell phone and ask her to hold dinner until he got there. He did, she did and all was well.