Yesterday a seventeen year old was hit by an Amtrak train about a mile from where I work. On the news people said that she was talking on her cell phone at the time and that the train blew its whistle and people tried to get her attention but that she was too wrapped up in her phone call to notice. They also said that perhaps there should be fencing to stop people from crossing the tracks.
Nevermind that thousands of people cross train tracks every day without getting hit by trains or that tax dollars could probably be spent better just about anywhere else. No, instead of doing things like paying teachers more money in order to properly educate people, why not instead spend that money stupid-proofing the world? Trains aren’t like lightning or earthquakes which can happen anywhere at any time. Trains are on tracks, they’re huge, and they’re loud. It’s also fairly common knowledge that trains don’t stop on a dime. And any four-year-old knows what train tracks look like. So it’s visually huge, audibly loud, and there are tracks showing exactly where a train will go when and if at train arrives. If the sight of a train, train tracks, and a whistle blowing does not stop you from staying on train tracks, what makes these people think that a fence will stop any given moron?
This of course is just an example of how we seem to continue to stupid-proof the world. Warnings on coffee cups that the coffee is hot, commercials with disclaimers telling us not to attempt whatever we see on television, hour-long TV dramas that have flashbacks to things we saw at the beginning of the hour are but just a few examples off the top of my head. It’s this stupid-proofing that’s allowing the world to fill up with so many stupid people. It used to be that if you were too stupid, you’d get killed, but now, a stupid person does something stupid and gets killed, and they want to fix it so it won’t kill more stupid people. I think it makes a lot more sense to just let the stupid take themselves out on their own.
Now I’m not proposing that stupid people need to die. That’s a little extreme even for me. What I’m saying is that if you do something stupid (such as get hit by a train), you should not expect any protection from the outside world. Like they say; if you’re gonna be dumb, you better be tough.
Also I’d like to point out before someone says I’m not respecting the dead or that they were almost hit by a train and they aren’t stupid or whatever else, let me confess that I too have almost been hit by a train.
When I was sixteen, some friends of mine and I decided to go down to the Nelson Bennett Tunnel. This tunnel is in Ruston, which is essentially North Tacoma. The Nelson Bennett Tunnel is a little more than a mile long and curved. This means that once you get a little ways inside it you cannot see either end of the tunnel. We had heard that in the time it takes to walk through it, only one train goes through. Luckily we were teenagers and thought to ourselves, “One train? Fuck that. We can handle one train.”
So we went into the tunnel and shortly afterward a train came through. First we heard it. Then we felt the ground rumble. Then we saw the damn thing. We all crouched against the wall as the train approached. Then something happened. It took a minute to figure out what it was. For a moment I thought we had been hit by the train and this was death. I eventually realized it was a sound. It was the train whistle and the sound had nowhere to go in the tunnel so it was so loud it felt like a physical force. A few moments after that, I thought the train had past and I moved to get up, but my friend Gabe stopped me and put his flashlight on the tracks. There were all these flatcars going by that I didn’t even see. He saved my life.
Now having told you that, I want to say that if I were to have been killed that day, it would have been because I was doing something stupid. Do I think they should have put up fences to stop us from going there? Well it doesn’t matter because now they have. Right now to get to the Nelson Bennett Tunnel you have to go over or around at least one fence. And you know what? People STILL go to the tunnel. Why? Because you can’t stop stupid. And since you can’t stop stupid, there’s no point in trying to stupid proof the world. It’s a waste of time and money. People are going to continue to do stupid things no matter what you do. And even if you succeed in stopping someone from doing something stupid, you’ve most likely only saved them long enough to do something else stupid.
Yes, I’ve done many stupid things in my life and I will do many more stupid things I’m sure. And yes, it’d be nice if I don’t die while doing something stupid, but if I do, let’s hope that everyone puts the blame on me and not anywhere else.