Tuesday, February 18, 2014


On Sunday I was driving home from dropping off AYD to spend some time with her mother. An accident blocked the main drag into Tooele. The detour crept along a frontage road right past the accident. There were bits of car everywhere, and white sheets.

I would later be told that the daughter of the driver and front seat passenger of the government minivan landed on that frontage road after being ejected from the minivan; she must have been thrown over 50 feet, and reportedly only suffered a broken arm. The other teenagers who were ejected were more seriously hurt. The driver, who had somewhat recently suffered from disability and near death medical complications, may now have to deal with long-term paralysis. The two occupants of the oncoming Subaru the van swerved into died. The front seat passenger of the minivan also died; she was my co-worker.

I remember many things about her. We worked together for years. One incident from almost a decade ago will crisply remind me of who she was whenever I dust it off. AOD was trying Girl Scouts and was stuck trying to sell some cookies. I brought AOD’s cookie sheet into work for another co-worker who stated he wanted some. My former co-worker noticed it in my clutch of papers and asked how I was doing getting the cookies sold. I admitted my issues, and she offered –or more precisely insisted- on taking the sheet to find additional cookie buyers. She returned it with five times as many signatures, and ten times as many cookie boxes noted on it. She made sure every person on the list got their cookies, and made sure everyone on the list paid. Most telling of all was how she was genuinely happy to be able to take charge of the situation and genuinely help out AOD. She liked to do good things. I liked her.

The Post Chapel is performing a candlelight vigil on Tuesday. My fellow vanpoolians disseminated the information to each other over the weekend. Each person had tried calling the dead woman to find out information about the crash before they knew she was involved in it. She was a node of information. She was everybody's friend.  She was involved in her community in ways that I am not.

The police report describes how the accident was precipitated by a failed merger. The minivan moved over a lane, and a Mitsubishi Montero failed to provide enough room for them to merge. The back end of the minivan clipped the front end of the Montero.   The Montero did not lose control, and the minivan swerved into oncoming traffic. There are many reasons why the Montero could have missed the minivan merging into it, and I don’t know what the real reason is. I have driven that same stretch of road many times. The speed limit is 60, and the average speed is slightly greater than that. It is long and straight enough to entice drivers into making a couple phone calls or catch a couple texts. I have no idea if the Montero driver was texting, but I have seen many people texting on that road who could have been the cause of a similar accident.

In August of last year Werner Herzog released a short film about texting and driving called “From One Second To The Next”. I’ve embedded a link to the film in this post.  It has been shown to several hundred thousand school kids. Unfortunately the message about distracted driving is eroded each time someone successfully reads a text or dials a number without consequence. The typical distracted driver has mountains of empirical experiential evidence showing how safe their personal practices are. Before they know it they are zipping down state road 36 at speeds approaching 75MPH texting “YOLO” to someone without a hint of the irony they speed past.

I saw a perfectly good, but food-crusted, pan in a trashbin at work today. Even though my deceased friend moved her cubicle months ago I imagined a co-worker had thrown the pan out rather than leave it as unfortunate posthumous clutter. I hope someone tidies up for me after I die. It would be unfortunate if AOD and AYD had each expression of sympathy footnoted: “I’m sorry for your loss, but did AOA ever do dishes?”

Churches and chapels do a much better job of addressing a community’s loss than Atheist clubs during times of tragedy. I hope the local chapel does a great job handling the losses associated with my dead friend. One day secular community organizations will be performing this vital service, and everyone’s lives will be enriched because of that.


Anonymous said...

I turned in my CAC renewal form to her last Thursday.

Laura T. said...

Thanks for that. I recently watched the Herzog film and am glad it is being widely used in schools.
Also, I'm aware of, and attended, many secular memorials, especially over the past ten years. They all seem to accomplish what needs to be done for survivors. Although, the idea of prayer is omnipresent.

adult onset atheist said...

It makes sense that secular memorials would work in some places before they worked everywhere. It also comes as no surprise that Small-town Utah is not at the forefront of secularization of community support. When I was in more traveled parts of the world I attended "Unitarian" and "non-denominational" memorial-like services. The Unitarian one was almost secular.