Recap: Near-Death Experience; NASCAR; Smoking Jacket; Fairness

Whew. What a week it’s been.

  1. Yesterday provided an object lesson in defensive driving. On my way back from an errand, I was cruising at about 50 mph — same speed as the other road traffic — along Wilson Avenue between Walker and Grandville. That stretch, long and sparse, is notorious for tripping up unwary drivers; people routinely travel 70 or faster but given the icy road conditions, speeds last night were more prudent. Just past O’Brien, a teenage girl lost control of her Jeep Wrangler and started spinning out of control; she was doing 360s and she drifted into the oncoming traffic lane. Which, in this case, was me. Because she was headed toward my side of the road at an angle, I couldn’t aim for my shoulder without risking a head-on collision or at least getting clipped. So I “threaded the needle” — I swerved into her lane and back into mine before the cars behind her caught up to us. My maneuver worked, although the icy roads put me into a spin. I did at least one 360 before settling in the ditch facing the wrong direction. I felt bad for the Wrangler driver: She was clearly a newly licensed operator who had no real clue about winter driving. And to make it worse, a few passersby stopped (three of us were in the ditch) and the poor girl had to deal with three middle-aged men shouting instructions to her about how to rock her Jeep out of the ditch. Which she did. Then she stopped in her lane, oblivious to traffic, and sent one more car into the ditch and nearly made three trucks rear-end each other. By the time everything got straightened out, there were no injuries and no apparent property damage. For my part, I just hit the 4-High button on my 4WD control and drove away as if nothing had happened. A good outcome for a scary incident.
  2. Other driving-related news: While I was at the cigar shop yesterday, the big-screen TVs played the NASCAR race at Daytona. I’ve never really been a huge fan of racing — or any other spectator sport, for that matter — but the last 10 laps took my breath away. With six to go, there was an 13-car crash that caused a red flag. No one was seriously injured, although news reports later indicated that driver Michael Annett went to a local hospital for evaluation. Then, on the final turn of the final lap, there was a massive crash that tore off the entire front end of Kyle Larson’s car and threw wheels, debris and even the car’s engine block into the grandstand. Dozens of fans went to local hospitals and at least two were in critical but stable condition. I must applaud ESPN for not airing endless repeats of the crash while bystander casualties were still unknown, and I really tip my hat to the NASCAR drivers. The race winner, Tony Stewart, delivered perhaps the must humane and moving victory speech I’ve ever seen from a professional athlete — his concern wasn’t for the winning or the race but for the fans, and his team downplayed any celebration of their victory. And that same sentiment, a somber focus on the safety and well-being of the fans, dominated every single interview ESPN conducted with the drivers. If only all pro athletes had their heads screwed on as straight as NASCAR drivers.
  3. Other cigar-shop news: Last week’s cigar and cocktail evening went well. We had me, Tony, Alaric, Rob, Jim and Johnny. Good times. On Friday I picked up a tacky red blazer from Goodwill that now serves as my official smoking jacket at the cigar shop. Several of the regulars have grabbed secondhand jackets and re-purposed them as smoking jackets. It’s more fun than anything, and I’m only out the $5 I paid for the jacket.
  4. I’ve started reading a fascinating new book called Against Fairness by Stephen Asma. I’m not too far into it yet, but the premise is intriguing. He’s trying to articulate a coherent differentiation among fairness, egalitarianism and meritocracy as a critique of both Western and Chinese philosophy. The TL;DR version as I’ve seen it so far? That much of the sloganeering about what’s fair and what’s not fair are off-base, and that accepting that uniformly equal treatment is incoherent (e.g., in light of preferences for family) helps frame a more intelligent discussion about what’s fair.
  5. Speaking of reading, I picked up the final volume of the Wheel of Time series the same week it was released but I haven’t yet cracked the cover. I think I’m resisting the end of a series that I’ve known since Aaron lent me his copy of The Eye of the World in 1994.

All for now. Have a lovely week.