I drove a friend down to New York City yesterday, and drove back home alone today, Memorial Day, 2011.
From Syracuse,NY, its a quick shot to the eastside of Manhattan. 81 south to Binghamton, 17 east through the southern mountain regions of the state including a portion of the Catskills and the Hudson Valley, hop on the Thruway at the Harriman exit, take the Tappan Zee Bridge, take the Major Deegan expressway, pass Yankee Staudium, and finally hop on the FDR expressway south...get off at 71st street, and that's it. Easy, Breezy, Peasy. 257 miles, about 4 and a half hours one way.
This is a glorious drive. Most people's preconcieved notions of New York is that there is New York City, with an inconsequential state attached to it.
I assure you, this is not the case. The sheer mountain's majesty of The Great State of NY is clearly on display during this route. They didn't name it The Empire State for nothing.
But what could not escape my attention, both on the way down and the way back, was the incredulous amount of deer carcasses strewn on the shoulders of the travelled highways... the amount of carnage was astounding.
The bodies had been there for awhile. You could tell from the various stages of decay, either as carrion, bloated, pancaked, or freshly dead: it didn't matter.
Whenever I pass some roadkill, I always say out loud to myself or to other passengers, "Bad day for Mr. Squirrel", or "Bad Day for Mr. Skunk" Whenever I have children in the car, it turns into a game, with shouts erupting from the back seat, gleefully yelling "BAD DAY FOR MR. POSSUM!!!!"
Well this wasn't just a bad day for Mr. Deer... This was a massacre. This was a bad day for an entire species.
Maybe the epic amount of visiually verifiable deer death was due to the increase of holiday driving traffic. Or maybe the normally fastidious road crew reapers that grimly harvest the carcasses on a normal schedule were on vacation. Or maybe the bloody carnage on display was the result of a budget shortfall, and clean up intervals had to be necessarily elongated. Probably a combination of all three components.
But I couldn't help to think about larger issues, and larger questions.
What about experiential learning? Cars and highways have been around for about 90 generations of deer, calculating this upon a yearly reproductive cycle. When is Bambi's mom gonna teach Bambi not only about running out into the meadow, but running out in the middle of the highway? When is Bambi's mom gonna figure it out for herself?
I know. Scientifically, real evolution takes hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years. But I'm not talking about growing a prefrontal cortex through natural selection over millions of years. I'm just talking about a simple directive of Pavlovian conditioning through experience: "Stay Away From The Fast Moving Lights", or "Guardrails and Asphalt...BAD!"
Pattern behavior is a curious thing, especially when that behavior is self destructive.
The casual observer can see it clearly, and yet the self directed victims of their own behavior never seem to be able to grasp the simple concept.... and end up pointing their cloven hooves at the car in blame, rather than taking on the responsibility of making the bad decision of running into the lights, instead of away from them.
In other words, cut the end result off at the pass. Just stop. Stay out of the road.
It may appear that life, or "the buck" stops with the car, but in reality, "the buck" stops with the buck.
We humans are no better. We keep running into the light, under Einstein's definition of insanity: We run into the road,and toward the light, expecting a different result. And then ironically blame the car for our troubles.