To Protect and Serve: Iraq, flashing red lights, seat belts

It’s a beautiful fall day as I write this. Indeed I heard the sound of many leaves falling at once for the first time this year, and took a picture from my backyard:

October06 077

Two stories on the front page of today’s New York Times caught my attention. [1]

The main story, on the rightmost column, bears the headline, “G.O.P. Moves Fast to Reignite Issue of Gay Marriage.” Sigh. I remember the days when the governing party actually addressed issues that mattered: education, Social Security, national defense, fiscal responsibility, Medicare. Will they ever return?

The second can be found on page A10. The front page has a photograph accompanied by the following text:

An Iraqi policeman viewed the body of a colleague, one of 24 killed in an ambush near Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, that officials said left at least 42 people dead. Five American service members were also reported killed in Anbar Province, raising the month’s American death toll to 96.

Dave to G.O.P.: Stop having a bash bashing gays and address the issues that really matter. You can start with your war in Iraq. [2]

The Iraqi’s who are willing to serve as policemen are true volunteers. Yes, they are paid to do their job, but they volunteer for the job knowing full well they are putting their lives at great risk, but they are willing to take that risk because they want to help their fellow Iraqi’s put their country back together. But the jihadists know — as do we all though some forget from time to time — that policemen are among our most important citizens, and the jihadists have to date been far to successful in their mission to kill as many of their fellow countrymen who are policemen as possible.

We also have policemen here who protect and serve today. The Chappaqua chief-of-police lives in my part of town. I first got to know him back during the First Gulf War in 1990. He was then a Detective and helped guard our Temple during the height of that war. He is a wonderful landscape gardener; it’s always a treat to drive by his house and look at the grounds. His children have been classmates of my children. I noted once in an art display that his son draws very well.

I saw a police car with its lights flashing as I was leaving the bank in Mt. Kisco earlier today. [3] I heard the office admonish the driver of the parked car, “Don’t you know you should pull over when you see an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing?”

That reminded me of a change to my driving habits I am trying to put into effect. I read recently — and at the time thought it might now even be the law — that when you are driving on an expressway and see the flashing red lights that tell you that a State Trooper has pulled someone over, then if your car is in the rightmost lane you should move leftward if it is safe to do so. Too many — in case too many being just one — troopers have been killed during stopovers by cars that have plowed into them. By moving to the left you give yourself more freedom of action, so if someone suddenly cuts in front of you then you have a place to go.

Later in the day while on the way to HOUSEHOLD CHEMICAL CLEAN-UP DAY [4] I was stopped by a policeman who wanted to see if my Vehicle Inspection Sticker was up to date. I mentioned the pull-to-the-left policy and asked if that was the law now. He said no, it was just a good safety procedure.

Thinking of those flashing lights reminded me of another local institution, the Defensive Driving Course. It takes six hours and if you take the course then you get a reduction on the rates for you automobile insurance policy. The course is often given by retired policemen. They are the most effective instructors in that they can give real-live examples to emphasize the importance of defensive driving.

One lesson they teach very well is the importance of wearing your seat belt. Some folks find a seat belt uncomfortable and believe they don’t need to wear it all the time because if they see an accident headed their way then they will have time to fasten the belt into place. I witnessed the folly of this belief a couple of years ago while driving down the Taconic State Parkway in Putnam County during a snowstorm in February. I had just pulled into the left lane when a car a few hundred feet ahead of me suddenly slid to the right, struck a rock, rolled over a couple of times and came to a complete stop. I was just able to get by without hitting the debris that had been scattered over the road. All this happened in less than one second.

Wearing a seat belt even when your car is not moving can help. Once I was with my wife and one of our children to pick up the car after it had been serviced. We had just gotten into the car and fastened our seat belts when a truck plowed into the back of our car. Fortunately no one was injured.

Here’s another example. If you drive on the Saw Mill River Parkway near the Hawthorne exit you will notice that many trees are down. Your first thought might be some sort of construction is underway but you are looking at the after-effect of a small tornado. A state trooper had just finished lunch at Wendy’s and was pulling out of the lot when the tornado picked up his car and turned it over. [5] Fortunately he was wearing his seat belt and so he escaped serious injury; see Sergeant OK after tornado picks up his patrol car.

So next time you see a policeman thank him for his service. And that doesn’t apply just to policeman. While at the gym this morning I saw one of the regulars wearing a T-shirt that mentioned a city in Georgia. I struck up a conversation since my oldest daughter lives in Atlanta. I learned he got the T-shirt because his son was an enforcement officer for the Social Security administration and had been sent to a training facility in Georgia. I said he must be proud. Indeed he was, and I shook his hand.

In closing, another note from Dave to the G.O.P.: Hundreds of billions sunk into the desert sands of Iraq. Wouldn’t the money have been better spent elsewhere, say in Afghanistan or in our own country, to pay more to our own police and other law enforcement officers?


1. One of the delights of living in or near NYC is that the New York Times is your local newspaper. I’ve been a loyal reader for over forty years today. On the way home earlier this afternoon I passed by one of my neighbors, Peter Applebome. He has a regular column that reports on communities near NYC. As I drove by him he was on a cellphone, probably working on his next story. He was walking his dog “Wally” — named after his brother-in-law Walter.

We subscribe to the New Yorker, our “local” magazine, and still one of my favorite publications for over forty years.

I also recall once when I had to drive to midtown Manhattan that I was just “driving into town.” What a town indeed!

2. See my recent post Having a bash bashing Microsoft: Shell game? or Shell game!.

3. I live on the border of Chappaqua and Mt. Kisco. Both are in Westchester county and jurisdictions are divided. My children went to Chappaqua schools but I’m in the Mt. Kisco fire district. Mt. Kisco used to be part of New Castle, the town that contains the village of Chappaqua, but it split off back in the 70’s. This is an instance of “forking” in government. Two such forks have been key to our history: the successful fork from Great Britain in the War of Independence, and the unsuccessful attempt to fork that started the Civil War.

My house is closer to Mt. Kisco’s downtown than to Chappaqua’s, and I drive into Mt. Kisco almost every day to go my gym. The downtown area is lovely. There are several streets with many shops and restaurants.Main Street winds gracefully up a slight hill going East, passing a beautiful stone church on the way. One of my favorite bumper stickers is, “This car climbed Mt. Kisco.”

4. Our house is less than a mile away from the Croton Reservoir, part of the NYC water supply system and is also several hundred feet higher, so I am well aware that to dispose of any pesticides and such by pouring them into the ground is to pour them into NYC’s water supply, even though it might take years for them to reach that water supply.

I have a beautiful commute on the way to work in that most of it is on Route 100 right next to one of the reservoirs. It’s especially beautiful this time of the year during the fall foliage season. One of the comforts of the drive is knowing the view I am enjoying will not change as long as NYC exists.

Among the key nineteenth-century technologies that made modern NYC possible were the NYC water system, notably the Croton Aqueduct; the safety elevator, the first of which was installed in NYC in 1857; and the use of steel-based construction instead of load-bearing masonry that gave New York the buildings that comprise its skyline, Skyscrapers.

5. The Hawthorne exit is near IBM’s Hawthorne building, a part of IBM Research. I worked there for over 15 years and often got dinner from that Wendy’s back in the Jikes days when I was working into the evening.


One Comment

  1. cabbey
    Posted October 27, 2006 at 18:32 | Permalink | Reply

    “I read recently — and at the time thought it might now even be the law — that when you are driving on an expressway and see the flashing red lights that tell you that a State Trooper has pulled someone over, then if your car is in the rightmost lane you should move leftward if it is safe to do so.”

    It is the law in many states. Minnesota and Nevada both come to mind… and I think I saw the signs on the way into Utah too… all states I’ve driven in in the last month. For most of these it’s actually more broad than that… any multi-lane or wider road, and any emergency services vehicle… state trooper, tow tuck, etc. Personally, I do it for any stopped vehicle.

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