Friday, January 11, 2013

Progress Brings Challenge

To my son Tommy,

If you ask most people if a quieter car is a better car, except for a few who enjoy the roar of a muscle car, most will agree that quiet is better. Those who live near well travelled roads and highways would say loud cars are the bane of their existence. That is why most everyone agrees the new quieter hybrids and electric cars are great not only for carbon pollution reduction but noise pollution reduction as well. Most everyone except if you are blind and like crossing streets.

Coming home from work I heard this most ironic problem on NPR. Too quiet cars that blind people can't hear coming. At first my mind jumped to some engineer in Detroit slapping his forehead thinking, "I just can't win" and I chuckled at this picture in my head. What many saw as a beneficial side effect is now a problem for some. Then the radio show continued to tell me that the government is considering adding noise minimums to cars to combat this problem. The odd absurdity of this was not missed by the show who was requesting novel ideas for noises that these quiet electric cars could give off to warn pedestrians.

A million ideas ran through my mind for this alert sound. Many of these ideas are not what you would call politically correct. I pictured those deer whistles for a car bumper being modified to "ward off" blind people. Then the Inspector Clouseau quote came to mind when he goes to a blind beggar with a monkey and asks, "Are you blind?" and of course the blind guy answers yes. I pictured that in more of a car horn. Then my mind went to the Flash Gordon theme song, probably because of the nice lightning bolt icon. I got myself stuck whistling the river Kwai march song as an option (I know it has another name but for the life of me the Colonel it was named after won't come to me)  and then pictured me whistling that in an elevator and a blind person freaking out thinking, "who the hell is driving a car into the elevator?"

After going through sound after sound, I started thinking of other senses that might alert people to oncoming hybrids. Patchouli scented sprays would definitely scream Prius coming, if only you could get it to propel forward instead of wafting backwards. Perhaps arming each quiet car with a water cannon to spray off stray jay walkers. I then really started laughing because with the Downey eye health history, I would end up being sprayed in the face often as an older blinder version of myself tries to cross streets.

I think I have strayed too far from my original point of this post with my non-PC humor. The point is just because you think it is progress and the greatest improvement since sliced bread some one some where is not going to be happy. Progress creates brand new challenges. It can be a butterfly effect where a butterfly flaps his wings on one side of the world and hurricane appears on the other. As you grow up and go out and solve all the worlds problems with hybrids and other creative new solutions, always be mindful of the consequences and the people who may end up with an adverse effect from your solution.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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