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Turn OFF Your Lights!

Perhaps The Stupidest Idea, Ever

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, June 07, 2000.

I am beginning to think that Americans are, without question, badly needed in heaven because we are clearly too stupid to live here on earth. I make this prudent and restrained assessment after driving Tuesday and noticing that my eyes hurt from all the headlights reflecting into my rearview mirror. Tuesday it was - what? - 450 degrees in the shade with the sun out and no need for headlights. Of course, these aren't the real headlights, they're just the new running lights on new cars leavened liberally with actual headlights on older models, complete with some high beams, driven by genuine, world-class, letter sweater calciumed craniums of the first water, first class with oak leaf clusters.

I've seeeeeeeen the commercials. "Hey, your lights are on!" followed by the serious announcer pointing out how beneficial it will all be if we all used our lights because we could see each other so much better, thus preventing accidents. The way I figure it, if the sun doesn't provide sufficient power at cloudless midday to allow a driver to notice other drivers, he - or she - is too blind to be on the road at all, and if we drove with Nuremburg lights welded to the car roof, it would not increase safety because it desensitizes the driver to his environment, and lulls him - or her - into a feeling of alertness when he - or she - is so far from alert that he could be mistaken for a professional referee. And so could she.

Imagine, if you will, the forthcoming traffic jams on the Boulder Denver turnpike - and say, isn't that a pleasure to patrol these days, eh? Especially around the scenic wonderland that is Interlocken with those really beautiful buildings. And they say Albert Speer has no professional descendents....... - anyway, there you are on a day like, oh, yesterday and every vehicle, including the eighteen wheelers hauling compressed sawdust planking for the newest half million dollar studio apartments, every vehicle has its lights on. And better - we can always make it better, can't we? - and better there is no way to turn the bloody things off. Isn't that thoughtful of the manufacturers? The penultimate sentence in that paragraph screamed for a different internal intensifier than "bloody", but hey, I love the FCC.

Anyway, imagine that. A line of motionless vehicles coughing out massive amounts of no lead exhaust to fuel the air conditioning, if you can afford it, and the alternator to keep the lights on. So we don't lose track of each other. Yes. I can see it. See it clearly. And with a little effort, so can you.

In France, along the Riviera, the roads leading in and out of Monaco required, at least in the 1960s, no head lights at night at all. The roads were gently lighted and people traveled with their running lights only. It was lovely. You could see stars, you didn't have to get a transfusion for all the blood that leaked into your corneas from 50,000 watt headlights coming at you all night. People drove fast and carefully and always alert. Yes, in France. It is absurd to think that the Americans would ever consider such a development, just as it is to think that any other nation on earth would consider such a horror as mandatory lights during the day. In Arizona. In Florida. In Colorado on a day like yesterday. Come to Jesus, America. He wants you. Now, apparently. This is Dark Cloud, see you next week.