We did not have grief counselors back in the day. I do not really know if this was a good or bad thing. I just know this is the way it was.
I mention the grief counselors only because of the recent spate of vehicle-related deaths involving teens on the local roadways.
There is a ritualistic quality to these incidents.
A school official laments the failure of the young to grasp the danger of operating a powerful machine and promises to do whatever it takes to prevent another death. Teary-eyed friends of the victim gather in small groups to console one another, and grief counselors are deployed to the high school to help the teens sift through their feelings.
It is what it is, as it always has been and always will be.
Life is, on many levels, a matter of luck, hard as that is to accept.
I know, because I was one of those fast-driving teens years ago. I could be dead. Maybe I should be dead, given the high number of times I either was behind the wheel or in the passenger seat of a vehicle going 100-plus mph through the Virginia countryside.
I guess you could say I was a slow learner. Lucky, too. Very lucky.
We plowed through a fence once and ended up going 30 to 40 yards into a wooded area before coming to a stop in a streambed. It beats me how we avoided hitting a tree. A couple of feet either way, and who knows? It could have been a lot worse than a couple of broken ribs and cuts.
We flipped another vehicle and walked away with big grins on our faces. Of course, we lost the grins as soon as we underwent the adult-led inquisition.
We would find a deserted strip of asphalt late at night and just drive the heck out of it, all the while inhaling the sense of exhilaration.
A friend had what we called the Herman Munster vehicle, a hearselike hunk of metal that had been equipped with a high-performance engine. That thing could climb to 100 mph in almost no time. Fortunately for us, the Herman Munster vehicle spent as much time in the shop being repaired as it did on the roadways.
Seat belts? Please. Seat belts were not on our radar screen back in those days.
We were not stupid. We were stupid. This is the contradiction of the young.
We knew about death. We knew the risks. We knew the rules. We just figured, on some level, that it was not our time.
We undoubtedly have a lot in common, the teens today and the ones back in the day.
Death was around us, too. One of our classmates died in his vomit after a hard night of partying. Another ended up taking his life after too many hard nights of partying. We had our druggies who fried their brains and ended up looking dead. We had another classmate who had leukemia. He was a good kid who just wanted to live. We called him Casper. He died.
We committed the same youthful indiscretions then as the youths do today, only we did not have the grief counselors, perhaps because of our less-antiseptic notion of death.
A couple of years after high school, a buddy, a good athlete, a tough guy, lost his life after he instructed another buddy to pull the trigger on the gun, in some sort of alcohol-induced game of chicken/Russian roulette. A ball field was named after the victim. The other guy tried to hang himself.
And still, we drove too fast. We lived on the edge at times. Yet most of us reached adulthood in one piece, even if it was luck for a lot of us.
We lose 40,000-plus people on the roadways each year. The numbers are constant. It is life. It is death.
Me? I drive like Mr. Magoo nowadays, in the slow lane on the interstate, too many accidents after the fact.