October 23, 2010 11:31:00 PM
When I get in a car, I always buckle up -- have for a long time.
In the early ''80s one of my job duties was safety briefings, most of which, back in those days, amounted to nothing more than switching off the lights and switching on a projector. Not a bad gig. If I had the know-how to convert some of those old films into capsule form, I''d be rich and Ambien would be out of business.
The subject line of the note taped to the box in my chair read: "Seatbelt Safety -- cover asap." I made a point to schedule the viewing for a Friday morning, as I have strived never to work on a Friday afternoon my entire working life. I thought we could use a little nap before starting the weekend.
I got the group together, made my usual inappropriate remarks and settled in for what was sure to be nothing more than a conference room slumber party.
I''ve never forgotten the film''s title: "Room to Live." It wasn''t your garden variety blood-and-guts, gross-out safety film, much different. Rather than a state trooper in full dress, the moderator (who was in fact a retired state trooper) wore casual clothes; think your favorite old high school history teacher. He had an air of calm and certainty about him. He got our attention.
He didn''t try to scare us with tales of slow and painful death, disfigurement and wheelchairs. He went straight for the heart. He told stories of car crashes and the sadness associated with those unfortunate souls who didn''t make it -- and, moreover, those who were left behind to endure losses for a lifetime. It was "Last Kiss" without the music.
The theme that ran throughout the film was that as long as one stays inside a vehicle, there is "room to live."
Later that afternoon I made buckling up a habit ... no, a compulsion.
Going with the odds
I would not presume to know everything about seatbelts. I have had example after example shared with me by many a self-anointed automotive safety expert on the perils of wearing them. My favorite all-time reason, right after a car ablaze, is the one about how you can catch yourself or reach over and stop a passenger from bouncing off the dashboard or going through the windshield.
To test this theory (note: don''t do this before church because I want you to make it to the service), go out in your backyard. Make sure no one can see you. Back off about 50 feet from your house and get a running start. Before impact, lock your arms and catch yourself. If you are lucky enough not to be on the ground writhing in pain with a terrible sprain or dislocated shoulder, multiply that by 100.
Since I am just your everyday play-it-safe, always-bet-on-a-sure-thing kind of guy, I''m going with the posted odds that favor seatbelt wearers faring much better in car crashes than those who don''t wear them.
Sadly, there have been far too many instances over the last couple of years where we''ve lost some really good folks -- far too many of them kids with their whole life ahead of them -- because they didn''t take five seconds to buckle up. I''m going way out on a limb here (and please take no offense, as absolutely none is meant) and say that those unfortunate souls were not that unlucky to have met their fate after forgetting or ignoring to buckle up the first time ... they had never made it a habit.
Be selfish. Save lives
Humor me. Sometime this week, round everybody up in your house and take a couple of minutes to explain, from a purely selfish point of view, how hard it would be for you to deal with the loss of someone you love as much and is as dear to you as them. And how simply buckling a seatbelt might prevent your having to face unimaginable sadness. Simply stated, ask them to buckle up for you.
You who don''t wear seatbelts for whatever reason, save the e-mails. I''m not going to respond. I''m going with the trooper who convinced me that there is "room to live" with this closing remark: "During my whole career, I never unbuckled a dead person from an automobile."
Roger owns Bayou Management, Inc. and is also a semi-pro guitar player.