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The Greatest Good

Island Life

Of all the iconographic television facial expressions, it is the cocked eyebrow and slightly tilted head of Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock from the original Star Trek series that continues to have strong and current relevance for me. How can it not, in these times? Without saying a word, Spock could wither any wayward thought or plan or logic defying situation that arose in his proximity by simply assuming that minor facial contortion. It is a look that symbolizes and encompasses a range of internalized mental machinations from inquisitiveness to disbelief to an expression of a feeling that somewhere and somehow a great affront to and violation of the rules of logic has just been committed. It is a look that may appear disdainful, until one remembers that contempt and scorn are part of the realm of emotions that Spock does his best to suppress from the emotional side of his mixed Vulcan-human parentage. Knowing this, Spock’s quizzical eyebrow tweak remains a representation of purely objective skepticism and problem solving pragmatism.

The word that most often accompanied this Spockism is, of course, illogical. An image that remains for me both as a graphic demonstration of this declaration and as a near sullying of the First Officer’s untainted persona, is that of a three panel illustration on a billboard in London in the mid-seventies. The first panel shows a Spock with his pointed, Vulcan ears limp and drooping and nearly folded in half. The second part shows Spock partaking of a frosty mug of Heineken beer. The last frame shows a Spock with restored and rigidly upright ear tips with the word bubble- Illogical- printed over his sideways looking glance. The words that ran across the bottom of the billboard served as something of an explanation for the contrivance- "Heineken. Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach." One could look at this in two ways. The first is taking it purely at face value, where one accepts the given starting point of Spock’s flaccid ears and the exciting conclusion that this amber beverage from Amsterdam has remarkable, restorative powers. The second is to believe in Vulcan wisdom and reason and regard this entire bit of snake oil hooplah as nothing more than ad man "artistic" license, and that it is, in spite of the intended humor in the liberties being taken with a known, fictitious character, most illogical.

I find myself in similar territory while contemplating the ongoing battle over rumble strips on our very own Vashon Highway. From the very start of the debacle, the "illogical" word bubble has hovered over my head while regarding the destruction of what had been a highly bike-ride able shoulder, and while discussing the reasoning behind their appearance here with sometimes unexpected opponents to their continued, unwanted presence. More often than not, the stated premise coming from KCDOT that they were needed here as a remedy for all the cars running off the highway is generally laughed off by anyone I have talked to about this with the usual comment: "Oh yeah, we need rumble strips to keep the drunks on the road." As has been stated here previously, the distracted drivers these road etching are supposed to be helping are more than likely not going to be contained between the fog and center lines by grooved noise makers. As Spock might have said, "it is illogical to cater to distracted driving when one is supposed to be paying close attention while navigating a large, heavy metal object containing potentially explosive fuel."

The logic behind the rumble crash cure continues to elude me when looked at in the light of the now three run off the road accidents that have occurred here since the rumbles appeared. While the first two were daylight and dry conditions accidents, the third was a late night episode of more epic proportions just this past Friday. The car was heading northbound around the corner just south of where the Old Vashon Highway crosses the new. The driver continued along the radius of the turn just a bit further than the pavement allowed and crossed the rumble strips for the first time. After taking out a real estate sign and a mailbox, the mown down salal along the length of the ditch along the Highway pointed to the spot a hundred or so feet onward where the next mailbox was removed. At this point the car crossed the rumble strips again and proceeded across the Highway and across the rumbles on the other side at which point some glass and auto parts scattering acrobatics ensued.

As the car crashes continue to continue in spite of the grand rumble strip crash panacea, and the rumble strip induced bike accidents continue to add up, and the bike trailer people still find it impossible to ride where one formerly could safely stay on the shoulder, and car drivers continue to admit that crossing the centerline rumbles and yielding room to bikers is something they are no longer as likely to do, one wonders where the Vulcan credo- the greatest good for the greatest number- might fit in to the logic of this situation as there seems to be very little good in it for anyone. The only apparent benefits being seen here are from the federal grant monies that are swelling the coffers at KCDOT and the private contractor doing the etching. It should be remembered this grant was supposed to be used to enhance the safety of the roads for everyone who travels upon them. As recent evidence has shown, the etchings don’t even help keep the distracted driver on the Highway. As of this writing, KCDOT is still considering finishing the roadside destruction that they started this past Spring. At least at KCDOT, it seems that logic and common sense, not space, is the true final frontier. Live long and prosper.