Opinion: In harm’s way


Alongside one another on a city street, probably administratively correct but just barely wide enough for bulking emergency vehicles, two motorists — an empty ambulance and a sedan — were aligned next to each other. The ambulance driver was likely bored from his daily task of ferrying northside patients to downtown hospitals for testing and treatment; and the other was returning home enjoying the evening sun. As the two vehicles were first as the traffic light descended from red to green, they both advanced, side-by-side.

Twenty feet from the crosswalk, the ambulance driver, eagerly finishing the important text message that had affixed his cellphone to the center of the steering wheel and his gaze to it, allowed the now unrestrained and lumbering giant to nudge itself into the lane to its right – claiming real estate until others had no choice but to take the ditch as refuge. Alerted by the crunching steel precipitated by his absent-mindedness, the phone was dropped and the was wheel reclaimed as the now-tamed colossus sped off in shame. The beleaguered and disabled passenger automobile took stock that all occupants were safe and accounted for and then the fright of the moment shifted from abject fear to understandable frustration.

Happily, there was only mechanical and not physical damage. And, thanks to traffic cams and a report from police that “this happens all the time,” the health care company took responsibility for the repair (but not for the hours of inconvenience it precipitated). Do we flee from the damage of our own lack of attention, assuming the harm we inflict on others as inconsequential and not intentional? Do we measure our minor effort against their significant harm? Is it our nature to count those we injure as egregiously as we measure those hurting us? Do we wonder who are we running off the road?