2017-05-17 / Opinions & Letters

Overhead position

Something’s up in downtown Monticello at the corner of Washington and Main. A couple months back I first noticed a fence being built around the perimeter rooftop of the old brick building at that corner. Then last weekend I spied a little white room sprout up there on the roof - the kind of enclosure that would cover stairs accessing a roof.

A rooftop deck in downtown Monticello, Indiana - how big city!

You don’t have to get very high up in a little town to gain a great big view. And at that particular corner, the view east would be a big swath of river as it flows into Lake Freeman. A pretty view it will be, indeed. Likely, this will be a first ever view for those who make their way up to this rooftop.

I used to know an educator who often spoke in terms of taking the “overhead position.” When you take the overhead position, you get the big view, the big picture, the reveal. Sometimes, only by getting up a little, a little higher than the fray on the ground, can one see the bigger picture. From a little higher up you can either spot trouble brewing or resolution forming. There’s an advantage to be had in getting the overhead position.

But getting that overhead position in order to get that bigger view is not always easy.

If you had been on the new rooftop deck in Monticello early Monday morning you would have seen me stopped for the traffic light over near the post office. You would have also seen how close the big white, four-door sedan cut the turn in front of me.

The car had three middle age folks inside. But from what I could tell, the woman driving was the only one in the car also texting on her phone - thus the reason for her sloppy turn.

I don’t know why, but for some reason I figure small town motorists are smarter than the certified crazy city drivers I deal with weekdays.

For years, I took the Skyway when commuting between Chicago and Delphi. Then at some point I traded what had become a $4 toll on the Skyway for the very pretty route along South Shore Drive and the lakefront.

One section of that drive is two lanes with the lakefront to the east and a stretch of rough neighborhood on the west. And on Friday, headed back to the farm, I got a young guy in a beater vehicle on my tail on that stretch of road. And he was texting the entire time. Traffic slowed for buses, for pedestrians crossing the street and each time it slowed I watched in my rear-view mirror as this guy glided closer and closer towards me with his nose in his phone.

It was harrowing. Usually when I have a dangerous driver behind me, I pull over and let them pass. On this street, there is no pull over area and the side streets are a labyrinth of narrow one-way routes. I was stuck. And this guy was putting us both in danger for no reason.

According to Chicago Tribune figures, distracted drivers were involved in 10 percent of the 35,000 traffic deaths in year 2015. This is an increase of 9 percent from the previous year. And the instances of distracted driving are growing, not receding.

These days drunken driving is stigmatized in the United States. But it wasn’t always. And yet the risk and consequences have always been the same. The same cannot yet be said of texting while driving. There is little stigma associated with it right now despite the peril in which the practice puts us all.

The overhead view on drivers’ texting is clear. It’s mighty dangerous. It is done at the peril of many for the selfish convenience of the few.

Return to top