Monday, December 24, 2007

To Drive Slow. . .

My name is Dave. . . I am a slow driver. . . That is the way I feel sometimes. It is as if I have the problem. To many, I need to first admit my problem and then work on solving it. Some look upon my driving habits as humorous. Really I take no offense at all, I in fact contribute to the gentle humor talking in jest about how many hours it takes me to get from Bristol to Elkhart (a distance of maybe 10 miles), but also to many I am a menace on the road. My way of driving to them is unacceptable. You see I am called a slow driver, for I drive the speed limit, not five miles over or seven miles over or even two miles over the posted limit. I drive exactly at or very very slightly below the posted speed limit.

If I am on a 25 mile long stretch of one lane, in a construction zone on the interstate and the signs say 45 m.p.h. is the speed limit, I drive 45 or maybe 44.5 m.p.h. Sorry, I am not particularly worried if I have 15 miles of traffic backed up behind me. I drive the posted speed limit. I have pulled over and let people go around me. It is not my purpose to aggravate people. I know that I am the subject of anger, cursing, ridicule. . . lots of things, but in spite of that I drive the speed limit.

I come from a line of speed limit drivers, at least two generations. . . :) My father receives my writing in these emails. I don't know if he reads many of them. He and I presently have very different views on religion, etc, and many of my writings are probably quite annoying to him. I don't get much feedback from him. Maybe he's given up on reading anything that I write. I don't know, but anyway. . . one of my childhood memories is of getting a race car set for Christmas, I think that they were little slot cars. I think I was six years old or maybe seven. I remember he and I racing these little cars. Our race was to see who could go around the track the most slowly. I'm sure many of you are laughing at that thought.

We Stokelys are not at all dismayed at many times not doing things necessarily the way that everyone else does them. Those of you who attend church with me will probably not find it surprising, that I never let it bother me to be the only one doing something a particular way. I worship my way and for the most part, I try not to be effected by, or maybe I should better say, that I choose not to allow the opinions of others effect the way that I worship.

I remember the neighbors who lived across the street to the west from where I grew up as a child on 'A' Court northwest of Elkhart. It was my best friend's house. I remember my best friend's mother bragging. Actually, I think this was a conversation retold by my my mom around the supper table, but it was related that my best friend's mom had said that their family had driven to Warren Dunes State park in Michigan (I cannot remember the exact number, but from my Google Map route of it above I see that it's normally about an hour drive) I think she bragged that they had made it in 45 minutes or something. This was the early to mid sixties, before the 4 lane U.S. 31 bypass, etc. I remember my mother relating that my best friend's mom had said that they had gone (some big number) say 60 m.p.h. the entire way. Well the following week or so, I remember our family going to Lake Michigan at Warren Dunes and I remember my father telling my mother with a uniquely Stokelyish sense of pride, that we hadn't exceeded (again I cannot remember the exact number), say 35 m.p.h. the entire way there and back.

According to my father, anyone can press the controls of the slot car down and push them to go as fast as you can. It is equally as challenging and demanding to go slowly as it is to go fast. That is my battle. It is my temptation to drive fast in the car. I am not fearful of going fast. It is not my desire to be as annoying as possible to others by driving the speed limit. My driving the way I do, takes three different levels of meaning or three different aspects.

First, this is my philosophy, it is a speed limit. It is not a speed suggestion. It is not a speed recommendation. I am an engineer. On engineering drawings that I create, to have meaning every dimension has either an explicit or an implied tolerance. If a manufacturing drawing says that something is to be six inches long there will either be an explicit tolerance with the dimension such as: 6.000±.010 or 6.010-5.990. These give the allowable ranges of the part being manufactured. If the drawing just says: 6.00 for a particular length then there must either be an implied tolerance for a dimensions with two zeroes past the decimal place or the dimension is meaningless. At Speedgrip (where I work) for example: two place decimal dimensions have an implied tolerance of ±.010. We have no implied tolerance for three place decimals. We do not allow them on our drawings. They have no meaning for our manufacturing people. If they are there, they are for reference only.

The number on a speed limit sign has no implied tolerance. It's not 55 ±10 m.p.h. and it is not merely for reference. If the sign says 50 m.p.h. is the speed limit, it means that 50 m.p.h. is the upper limit, no tolerance, that is the limit. Now people will say, but the police will give you 5 m.p.h. over the limit. I'm sorry, but the police have no authority to give you anything of the sort. The police do not make the laws. The police do not set the speed limits. The police are there merely to enforce the posted speed limits. They do not make the laws, but they are as happy as anything to have everyone drive 5 m.p.h. over the posted limit. Why? You see that gives them the right, the power to stop everyone on the road who exceeds that limit. That 5 m.p.h. is their justification to turn on their lights, pull you over, question you, search your car. . . basically anything they want to do. You have put yourself under their power by breaking the law. The police must first view some infraction that you have committed before they can stop you in your travels. They must have some just cause, a probable cause is the term used, to stop you and that minor violation of the speed limit provides all the justification that they need to pull you over. The police are then totally within their rights to pull you over for going 1 m.p.h. over the posted speed limit. You have no recourse, no complaint. You were violating the law and it is their right to apprehend you when you violate the law.

This is the first of the reasons for strictly obeying the posted speed limit. I am either under the power of the law or I place myself under the power of the police. I choose to remain beyond the power of the police by strictly obeying the law.

The second of my reasons for driving the way that I do is one of discipline. As I stated before, it is my temptation to drive faster than the posted limit. It is easier to drive the same speed as everyone else around me and that is my temptation, but if I cannot control myself in this little thing, what hope do I have as successfully disciplining myself in larger more meaningful issues? For me, this is a spiritual issue. It is spiritual discipline. It is the controlling of my flesh by my spirit. It is so tempting when I leave a little late for work or church or some appointment to drive faster to get there more quickly, but to me that is compounding the first problem of not being ready and leaving on time with another problem of breaking the law to make up for my leaving late. It was within my power to plan ahead and to leave with sufficient time to get there without speeding.

That kind of action/reaction leads to double trouble. I don't do the right thing to begin with so I commit another error to try and make up for the first. I take Bibles to men and women at the jail every week who allowed one action to lead them into further trouble by somehow trying to hide or correct for the first problem with an even more serious second violation. You spend too much money on drugs or gambling or what ever and you steal a little money from the cash register at work to compensate for the first problem you had. If you follow that path you get deeper and deeper into trouble. So for me it's a matter of discipline. I'm making a conscious decision to discipline myself. I am going to control my behaviour and adhere to a way that is not the easiest way regardless of how much I might want to do otherwise.

The Bible says a couple of places where I am to submit to those in authority over me (Titus 3:1, Hebrews 13:17). I don't read where it puts any kind of limit on it. It doesn't say for me to obey those rules I find convenient or that I agree with. As I read this I am to obey the rules of the land and to me that includes speed limits. I'm surely not saying that you are going to hell if you drive 62 m.p.h. in a 55 m.p.h. zone, but the Bible says to obey civil authority and so that is what I do.

My third reason for driving the way that I do is that I see it as a little mirror of my philosophy of life. I like the sign or bumper sticker I've seen: Right is right, even if no one is doing it. Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. The way I look at it there are two ways of living life. You either live life trying to get away with as much as you can or you can live life trying to be as righteous as you can. I don't see any middle ground. Can you get away with driving faster than the speed limit? Absolutely! Yes you can. There are lots of things that you can get away with that are not the right things to do. Where do you draw your line in the sand?

I was speaking with a fellow in the jail a few weeks ago. I was surprised to see him there again. He told me, "It's no big deal. I'm not here on any serious charge. . ." OK, I'm sorry, but in my life to be in jail for any reason is a big deal. He has drawn a line in his life that since it's not a big felony charge that will get him sent down state for years. . . so it's no big deal that he's in jail. He's drawn a line in the sand in his life, he has accepted things in his life that are way way way beyond anything that I can imagine for my life. As he said. . . It's no big thing. . .

Where do you draw the line in your life? Where do you take your authority from? What if the police, the ones who enforce the laws, would 'allow' 10 or 15 or 25 or even 50 m.p.h. over the speed limit. Would you then drive that fast? If you could get away with it, would you????. . . When the speed limit on the U.S. 20 bypass was 55, people drove 60-65. Now the speed limit has been raised to 65 and most people drive 70-75. Where does it end? What if the pastor would say that looking at Playboy magazine was OK? What if the pastor would say that divorces were allowable? How about drinking? The cutting of women's hair or the wearing of jewelry or tattoos or. . . you name it. . . would you do those things if the pastor said it was OK? What if everyone was doing it? Where do the limits in your life come from? It is from the police? Is it from the pastor? How about from the laws of the land? Is that how the limits on your life are set? Abortion is legal. Gambling is legal. Pornography is legal. Drinking is legal. Homosexuality is legal. Where do you take your authority from? How do you chose what is allowed or disallowed in your life? How do you set your limits? Can you get away with it? Is everyone else doing it?

Everyone is doing it. . . why not me too? I'm just keeping up with the traffic. I hear this all the time, that you must drive faster than the limit in order to keep up with traffic. It is in some mysterious manner unsafe to drive the speed limit. Please forgive me but that is utter hogwash. I have driven in large cities all over this country and other countries, in all kinds of conditions, in all types of heavy big city traffic and I drive the posted speed limit. I've never had anyone run me over. I've never had problems of any kind. I do not have close calls. I do not just barely avoid accidents. I've never had a traffic ticket. I've never been in any accident while I was driving. It is a myth that it is unsafe to drive the speed limit. It is the easiest thing in the world. I just drive the speed limit and there are no problems. I don't base my decisions on what everyone else is doing. I don't worry about what I can get away with. I look at the sign on the side of the road and I set my speed.

Am I being a Pharisee? I do not believe that this will get me into heaven. I surely am not better than anyone else or more righteous than anyone else, but this is a decision I have made, this is a discipline that I have for my life. The Pharisee's would not violate the rules for any reason. They would not help someone in need on the Sabbath. The rule was everything. If I'm driving someone to the hospital who is in a crisis, I will speed. The rule is not everything, but it is also not completely unimportant. . .

Please I don't mind. . . I will continue to laugh along with others at my driving. I even contribute to people's mirth with tales of how long it takes me to get places, but it goes deeper than that. . .

I love you God.
Thank you Lord!

I love you all. . .

Dave Stokely

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