Why do people so often ignore blatant warning signs, either metaphorical ones or real ones?
Consider, for example, the Dexter Underpass:
“The bridge over Dexter-Pinckney Road was designed in 1890 by Frederick Blackburn Pelham, the first African American to graduate from the University of Michigan in engineering. But it might never have been built if Warner’s cow hadn’t calved on Sunday morning, March 20, 1887.
When Warner didn’t show up for church, his parents, Dennis and Martha Warner, became concerned. That afternoon they walked from their house in the village toward Charles’s farm, which he had taken over from them years before. As they began to cross the tracks, the Michigan Central’s Limited Express roared around the curve at forty-five miles per hour. Dennis Warner made it across, but his wife did not. “Mrs. Warner evidently became slightly confused, hesitated an instant, and just as she stepped from the track was struck by the pilot of the locomotive, throwing her head against the cylinder, crushing her skull and killing her instantly,” reported the Dexter Leader […]
The accident cast a “pall of gloom over the entire community,” reported the Leader. After the funeral, held at the Congregational church on Fifth Street, townsfolk began petitioning the railroad to build a bridge at the crossing. At the time the Michigan Central was making improvements all along the line, and the railroad assigned Pelham, a young civil engineer whose specialty was bridge building, to design new bridges over the road and over Mill Creek. Both elegant stone structures are still there, the latter behind the fire station at the end of Warrior Park.
[…]The Dexter underpass was the most unusual of the twenty bridges that Pelham designed in Michigan because of its skew arch, a design used when bridges are not perpendicular to crossings. Before putting in the stone arch, the workers dug under the rail bed and put in a temporary wooden frame…Stone bridges were the best available at the time for durability, strength, and easy maintenance, but only wealthier railroads could afford them.”
As you drive toward the bridge from either side, about a mile out you see a sign warning you that there is a low bridge ahead. Then, half a mile out you see another sign warning you about the low bridge ahead. Then, as you approach the bridge…well, here is the picture I took from my minivan earlier this evening:
That’s right, there’s a third warning sign, and the height of the bridge is prominently displayed on the underpass as well. Nevertheless, driving home from a church event last Saturday, we came upon this:
That’s a semi truck wedged under the bridge, with an enormous tow truck backing up to it. The fire department was out there, too; my youngest daughter wanted to know why the firemen couldn’t spray soapy water on it or spread peanut butter around it like you do when you get gum stuck in your long hair.
Lest you think this is a one-off occurrence, here are pictures of a few other recent similar events at the Dexter Underpass:
“I’m offended you’d even suggest that I might want to take another route around that low bridge! Low bridges are a constraint on my freedom! I shall plow right through, mind over matter! I just gotta be free to be me and do what I do, and I’m a high-overpass kind of a person!”
It never ends well; man-(or woman)-versus-reality contests usually don’t.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.