In Today’s America You Have To Pay Attention

by Kevin Burton

   Gonna make myself a sign, and I’ll tell you why.

   First, by way of explanation, a bit from my coaching days.

   When I began coaching the Wichita Sonics beep baseball team, I adopted the three rules that the late John Madden, the old Oakland Raiders coach, had for his team. It they were good enough for John Madden, they were good enough for me.

   His rules were, “be on time, pay attention and play hard when I tell you to.”

   Today I’m focused on the second one, “pay attention.” 

   You may have noticed that Americans are shooting Americans for pulling into the wrong driveway, getting into the wrong car, knocking on the wrong door, etc.

   In a story this week the Associated Press called it, “common mistakes, uncommon reactions.”

   “In the span of six days, four young people across the U.S. have been shot — one fatally — for making one of the most ordinary and unavoidable mistakes in everyday life: showing up at the wrong place,” reads the AP story. 

   “A man shot and wounded two cheerleaders outside a Texas supermarket early Tuesday after one of them said she mistakenly got into his car thinking it was her own.” 

   “A group looking for a friend’s house in upstate New York arrived at the wrong driveway only for one of them to be shot to death Saturday night, authorities said.”

   “In Missouri last Thursday, a Kansas City teen was shot twice after going to the wrong home  to pick up his younger brothers, raising questions about the state’s “stand your ground law” and heightening racial tensions.”

   “This type of gun violence is not rare, said Jonathan Metzl, who directs Vanderbilt University’s Department of Medicine, Health and Society. The shootings have drawn attention because they are so extreme and in such quick succession. But they show how “stand your ground” laws have fueled a belief that people can use guns defensively ‘anytime they perceive a threat,’ he said.”

   I’m not nearly the news hawk I used to be.  I’ve tuned into the good news in the Bible, and let some other things in life “grow strangely dim” as one song puts it.

   But you can’t help but notice what’s going on in the United States. You have to “pay attention.”

   On the Sonics, pay attention meant more to me than listen when the coach is talking.  In the team sense, it meant pay attention to what is going on, to available opportunities, and whenever possible turn them to the advantage of a team pursuing a championship. 

    I talked about this in a team meeting before the 2009 World Series. One player said a certain exit in the hotel lobby was blocked because of construction and we would have to leave the building in the morning by the other one. 

   That is paying attention. That player saved us a little confusion and a little time on gameday.

   In my case it could save much more.

   I plan to print a sign in big block letters that says “UBER?” on one side and “LYFT?” on the other.  I will look into having it laminated. 

   I plan to have this sign whenever I take one of those rider services, because I can’t be sure I am approaching the correct car. 

   The Uber app tells you who is coming, the make and model of the car being driven. 

   I am legally blind, but there are probably many fully sighted people, who like me, aren’t big on cars and usually can’t distinguish between the makes and models.  If something is very different, such as a Volkswagen Beetle or maybe a Hummer, I will be able to tell what it is.  For the most part other than that, I don’t know the difference. 

   The most recent time I took Uber the app said a gold Toyota Camry was coming.

   When the car arrived it was some weird color that was closest to silver, definitely not gold.  In this case I knew it was the right car because the driver rolled down the window and asked unphonetically, “KEE-vin?” 

   All’s well that ends well. That day I got from a medical appointment to my house, without need of another medical appointment, or worse.

   Anyone blame me for creating the sign? I’m probably not the first one to think of this. But I urge you to consider it for yourself.

   As you go around pursuing the American dream as an imperfect human being, just forget about saying anything that starts with “but I was just…” as you explain your innocent mistake.  This is the way it is in America.  If it changes, I’m sure it will change for the worse. 

   Pay attention, or else.

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