Some folks, sadly, live in a perpetual state of fear and believe some form of danger lurks around every corner. I am not sure what initially instilled such a mindset in them, but I do know that social media, the 24-hour cable news cycle and many politicians (the Brown People are coming to get you!) exacerbate and exploit that fear.
I remember last year when neighboring Yorktown was contemplating a project that would expand its walking trails and bike paths throughout town, some residents showed up at the Town Board meeting to speak out against the idea. These trails, they argued, would attract transients who would then jump the fence and break into their homes and steal their children!
Well, OK, I thought, those must be fun households to grow up in. It’s helicopter parenting, except the helicopter is a medevac.
It’s the age-old contemplation of perception vs. reality. Reality, and your perceptions of reality are often two different things. You’re smart to recognize that sometimes your perceptions can’t be trusted and must be examined … even challenged. Professor Steven Pinker recently pointed that out in an article for Time Magazine. He noted that measurable statistics about life in the 21st century show people overall are living longer, are healthier, better fed, richer and safer than ever before. Those are the undeniable facts.
Yet, the average person’s opinion of the state of the world is much more pessimistic and worried. What’s going on here? Why are people drawing conclusions that are the exact opposite of the facts?
For example, Mahopac recently had a mini-crime spree. Someone passed a counterfeit $100 bill at a local gift shop, and then, a few days later, the video game store right next door was robbed at gunpoint.
We wrote those stories, as any community newspaper would, but with a slightly bemused attitude: “Oh, look. Mahopac had a crime.” Neither made the front page, but when we linked the store robbery article to our Facebook page, all hell broke loose.
“Can’t feel safe anywhere…anymore!” one anguished lady bemoaned.
“I’m scared to leave my house!” decried another lost soul.
I don’t know how to console these women. It’s the ol’ perception vs. reality. The women perceive that Mahopac is a crime-ridden hell hole where no one is safe. The reality is that crime is actually rare here. In fact, the website NewYorkupstate.com ranks Carmel as the seventh safest town in New York. In 2016, according to the FBI, there were five “violent” crimes here—four of them aggravated assault. There were 16 burglaries. That’s in a town with a population of just under 35,000. It’s not exactly the south side of Chicago.
Now, if you really want to have your perception of living in ominous circumstances meet reality, just get in your car and drive around. I am not talking about the risk you take getting smushed by some dipwad who is texting while driving. I’m talking about the seemingly endless supply of psychotics who will threaten and menace you—maybe even cause you bodily harm—because of some perceived notion of inconsideration on the roadway. Yes… road rage. It’s still out there and it’s getting weirder.
It seems every day there is a news report of some sort of altercation on our nation’s highways and byways. Here are just a few recent ones:
• A pediatric dentist was arrested after a road-rage shooting in a Newnan, Ga., parking lot involving the suspect, her husband and another couple. The dentist said she was baited into the altercation when the driver of the other car spewed racial slurs at her.
• A 36-year-old man, Horace Williams, became involved in a Nov. 27 road altercation with another driver that ended tragically on Sweetwater Road in Chula Vista, Calif. Williams and 60-year-old Rickey Smith were in a road-rage chase, police said, with liquids thrown and screaming from vehicle to vehicle. When they finally stopped, police said, Smith got out of his truck and fatally stabbed Williams, a father of five, multiple times while he was still in sitting in his van.
• An Idaho Falls man was arrested in October for pointing a gun at another driver. Kristoffer Jensen, 40, forced the driver behind him to pull over, exited his car and began yelling and pounding on the other driver’s window. The victim told police Jensen had been driving erratically. After he pounded on her windows, she said, Jensen returned to his car and pulled out a handgun. She said it looked like Jensen put a round in the chamber before pointing the gun at her. The victim was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher, reporting events as they happened. She drove away, then waited at another intersection until police arrived.
But the road-rage incident you all might be most familiar with happened last month on I-684. A dude name Roderick Davis was driving his kid to school in White Plains when he encountered a traffic jam near the Hardscrabble Road exit in North Salem. Somehow, he managed to sideswipe an oil truck. He got out of his vehicle brandishing a machete and confronted the truck driver. Video shows Davis whacking the machete against the side of the oil truck so hard it shatters and then the two men start grappling and fall to the ground.
The first question here is: Who the hell carries a machete around with him in his car?
The second is: Didn’t he see that hundreds of other people were sitting there in their cars watching him and his machete commit a crime?
No Father of the Year Award for you this year, Roderick!
So, if you really want to stay in lockstep with reality, the moral of the story here is to stay in relatively crime-free Mahopac and avoid getting in your car. Hitchhike or use a taxi, I guess. And if you take a taxi, don’t offer to pay the driver with a $100 bill. If he’s smart, he won’t accept it.