A former Ohio State football player, Will Smith, was killed in an apparent “road rage” incident last night in New Orleans. Shortly before midnight Smith’s car was rear-ended by another vehicle, and the driver of the vehicle shot Smith multiple times and shot Smith’s wife as well. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene, and the driver of the other car was charged with second-degree murder.
It’s one of those senseless deaths that make you shake your head. Of course, I heard about it only because the victim was a great defensive line star at OSU and one of the players that helped the Buckeyes win the 2003 National Championship. But lots of people who aren’t pro athletes are victimized by “road rage.” Statistics are hard to come by, but one recent report indicated that 1,500 people each year are hurt or killed in road rage incidents — and the number appears to be increasing. If you’ve been out on the roads lately, you probably won’t find that difficult to believe.
Reports indicate that road rage incidents often start with something small, like a bad driving maneuver, or tailgating, or giving someone the finger, but they for some reason escalate to the point where cars are chasing each other at high rates of speed through rush-hour traffic, trying to run each other off the road, or following each other until one car stops and a physical confrontation occurs. Who knows what set off the shooter in the Will Smith incident — but a simple rear-ending fender bender wouldn’t cause a rational, sober person to start spraying bullets.
It’s frightening to think that there are people so filled with anger just below the surface that one traffic incident or rude gesture could cause them to become so unhinged that they are willing to murder a complete stranger. When you add loaded firearms to the mix, it becomes an even more terrifying scenario.
The lesson is clear — if you see someone driving aggressively, get out of the way. Avoid eye contact or any form of provocation. The old ’60s-era driving slogan has an even more pointed meaning these days: Watch out for the other guy.
It’s snowing as I write this, and when Kasey and I walked downtown today we saw the tulips and daffodils around the Statehouse drooping in the face of the unseasonable cold. I hope they can bounce back, but some of the petals look permanently damaged. Spring flowers aren’t hardy enough to endure multiple days of snow and bitter wind and sub-freezing temperatures.
This crappy weather is why Mom counseled that you shouldn’t plant flowers before Mothers’ Day.
Say you want to propose to your long-time girlfriend. Should you (a) go to the place you first met, fall to one knee and present an engagement ring as in old-time movies, (b) pop the question at the end of a romantic meal at a fine restaurant that is a mutual favorite, or (c) ignore a climbing ban and scale a 600-foot outcropping called Morro Rock on the California coastline so you can make your marriage proposal via the Facetime app?
Modern times being what they are, of course one guy chose (c). Although his girlfriend said yes, the whole exercise didn’t work out so well for him. He got stuck on the way down, became stranded on a sheer ledge 80 feet off the ground, and had to be rescued by a California Highway Patrol crew and helicopter; then he was arrested for suspicion of possession of methamphetamine because he was acting “strangely.”
Acting strangely? You think? When it comes time to ask someone to spend the rest of their life with you, you decide the best way to do it is to scale a rock and do it remotely, via an app? That doesn’t exactly send a message about “we” rather than “me,” does it?
The BBC report on this story says that the rock climber will be asked to pay for the cost of his rescue, and I certainly hope that is true. I’m heartily sick and tired of adventurers and thrill-seekers deciding to take unnecessary risks by parachuting into remote mountain ranges or climbing sheer rock faces or helicoptering to inaccessible ski areas, getting trapped or stranded, and then becoming the subject of massive and expensive search-and-rescue operations. They’re taking stupid risks for their own self-aggrandizement, and the taxpayer shouldn’t end up paying the bill for their folly.
As for the girlfriend who said yes, I hope she reconsiders.