An Open Letter to the Guy Reading 'A Game of Thrones' While Driving
I don’t know your name. Frankly, I was too gobsmacked to notice your license plate number or anything else about you. Why? Because of the massive hardback splayed across your steering wheel like a fileted paper fish drying in the sun.
You were going fast. I know this because I was going … well, it doesn’t matter how fast I was going, but you passed me, so you were going really fast. Granted, it was a freeway, but I was already … like I said, it doesn’t matter how fast I was going. As you passed me at the cruising speed of a 747, I couldn’t help noticing your eyes were glued to the pages somewhere in the final third of A Game of Thrones.
My first reaction was surprise, but that quickly fermented into a dark, stout rage. How dare you endanger our lives? How reckless could you be? George R.R. Martin’s books have killed many fictional characters, but I’m sure the author wouldn’t want any of them causing the death of real people. Particularly me. He doesn’t know me, but I quite like myself, and I like to think he would, too, should we ever meet.
I admit I’ve done my fair share of stupid things in a car, and there are plenty of every-day items that have instigated wrecks—faulty radio dials and coffee cups and so forth. But in a world where we make commercials about how deadly a three-word phone text can be, reading an entire book seems like an abridgement too far.
So for the rest of my long drive through the Nevada desert, I fumed about you and your improvised reading room. I arrived at my destination safely, and I can only assume you arrived at yours because I never came across the smoldering wreckage of your car. But I would be lying if I said I never daydreamed about you standing at the periphery of a major accident, bruised and bleeding but not fatally injured, looking to the heavens while burning pages of Dothraki infodumps floated down around you, screaming “Why? Why didn’t I stop at page 373? My librarian warned me this would happen!”
“That’s the only way he’ll learn,” I said to myself.
And then I forgot all about you.
A week or two later, I accompanied my daughter on our regular trip to our local library. She is just hitting the age where chapter books are new and exciting. Suddenly the library shelves seem full of series that continue a story over multiple books. Do you remember how magical that discovery was? My daughter was so excited to start the sequel to one of her favorite books that she started reading it before we even left the library. As we walked home, she trailed behind, nose buried in her book. When we crossed the street at an intersection, I looked back to find her stalled in the middle of the crosswalk, too engrossed in some plot development to notice that she was in real danger.
My first reaction was parental indignation. It was a quiet neighborhood intersection, so the danger was relatively small, but I couldn’t ignore the principle of the thing. How many times had we talked about paying attention when crossing the street? Didn’t she understand how quickly it all could end?
And then, in an instant, my indignation dissolved in a wave of pride and love. I can’t properly explain how something so illogical can happen in a parent’s mind. It’s the same thing that happens when parents laugh at a baby’s “pooping face.” It’s adorable and remarkable, even though we know that in two minutes we’ll need a gas mask and a hazmat cleanup kit.
So in that moment of semi-peril, my daughter was beautiful and invincible.
And suddenly, I thought of you, Mr. I-can’t-let-driving-stop-me-from-learning-who-loses-his-head-next.
You see, I was filled with an immense amount of pride for my daughter because I have tried to instill a love of books in my children, tried to cultivate an intense fascination with the power of books to transport us, tried to make them need books like they need food. Perhaps I should have reserved some of that effort for emphasizing pedestrian safety, but right then it was irrelevant. No matter my failings as a parent, I had at least done something right. I had helped my daughter love reading.
I thought back to all the times I had neglected important things for the love of a book, when I burned dinner or forgot to clean my room because a book demanded my attention. I know the overwhelming need to know what happens next. The best books are the ones that force us to mold our lives around them.
So while you were doing something extremely stupid — No one should ever read while driving! — I understand you now.
I get that the long, boring, godforsaken stretch of highway in Nevada will never be as beautiful or important as a book. I get that some books demand our attention so strongly that we can’t resist. I get that we can love something so much we’ll do irrational things for it.
I get it. And I get you.
Just, please, next time buy the audiobook, and keep your eyes on the road. My daughter is reading in the back seat of my car, and I don’t want one of your mistakes to interrupt her.
To leave a comment