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Hands in the 10-2 position

February 9, 2012 - Steve Murch
Friday's edition of The News (sorry – not online, just in the paper) Andrew Heller has a column about distracted drivers. He listed everything in the vehicle that distracted him on his drive to the gym. His timing for me was a great coincidence because today I almost sat through a light because some woman thought it more prudent to light her cigarette than drive (I was making a right-hand turn and she was going straight). She started into the intersection, stopped, started, stopped, started, etc. It wasn't until she passed me that I saw she was lighting her cigarette.

The column reminds of a game I covered while I was in sports. I have repeated a couple times to people in the newsroom through the years, and every time I'm still amazed I didn't have any issues …

One year during football season, we had three teams make the playoffs. Posen was in Hale, Mio was in Traverse City, and I don't recall the third team and where it played. Our dilemma was we really wanted to have more than one game story in the paper since we had three teams in the playoffs. The decision was that I would cover half of the Posen game so I could have a photo, and then have Glenn Budnick, who was Posen's coach at the time call me after the game. Brad Gardner was our sports writer and went to one of the games and called back with the story. The third team would call in its score.

I went to the Posen game, took notes and photos for the first half and high-tailed it back to Alpena. I listened to the rest of the game on the radio and in the dark took notes. Everything that I thought was a big play I scribbled on a note pad, making it large enough so I knew I was writing over everything else so it wasn't a jumbled mess, and then turning the page after each event. I went through most of a pad of paper doing that.

Remember, the playoffs take place in late October/early November – also known as the time when deer are out en masse, and M-65 is filled with deer at that time of the year. I was clearly a driver with a lot on his plate, but somehow I managed to get lots of notes, get back to the office, write most of my story before Glenn called, and had photos for the paper.

I saw a few deer, but none crossed my path. I'm still surprised sometimes that I was able to pull it off without any issues. Of course on top of not hitting a deer or having to worry much about them, I was lucky not to encounter any law enforcement because I was pushing the speed a bit. And yet, I wasn't as distracted on that trip as I've seen with drivers in town every day.

I shutter every time I pass someone speaking on a cell phone while smoking at the same time and have neither hand on the wheel. How are they steering, and how much are they paying attention to the road?


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