Bay Reflection
Lessons from the Road
Squirrels may be Buddhists, but pickup drivers surely aren't.
by Pat Piper

Here's the situation: I'm driving the speed limit along Highway 2 northbound approaching the intersection of Highway 258. I'm the only one on the road except for a red squirrel now some 100 feet ahead. I slow down, and it isn't because of the red light that always gets me at the intersection but rather because of the red squirrel. Let me put it this way: I've had some experience with squirrels.

The beast is staring right at me. I know what's coming. The squirrel first moves to its right and then goes to the left. Then it pivots, moving to the other lane of Highway 2 before reversing and running to the opposite side of the road, where the whole routine began some 10 seconds earlier.

By this time, I'm at a complete stop. So is the red squirrel. Figuring it is giving me a chance, I accelerate to pass and the SOB darts toward my right front tire, forcing me to slam on the brakes. Now I'm getting the horn from a good old boy in a pickup truck with six foot tires and lettering across the hood who has been inconvenienced.

It makes a guy sit and wonder of these three living creatures right now, which is the dumbest? I don't choose the squirrel.

But the question remains: why are these animals with the innate ability to outwit the squirrel-proof bird feeders designed by M.I.T. engineers consistently unable to just cross the road?

I have seen squirrels leap from a deck railing to a nearby limb to another tree and then onto a roof and across a split rail fence in order to hang upside down for 10 minutes eating sunflower seeds for which a neighbor paid $5 a pound to attract cardinals. So there seems to be a pulse of some degree operating here. But on the road, squirrels are complete idiots.

Or are they? A Buddhist friend of mine told me to view the squirrel antics as a way for nature to tell us to slow down and understand that our need to get from here to there shouldn't be the focus of the day. Of course I argued with him, making the point that there are indeed idiots in this world and not all of them are up there in the clouds sitting in pickup trucks. Idiocy isn't limited to people, I said.

But I thought about the Buddhist and the squirrel and, because of a constant horn, the pickup truck while sitting on Highway 2. All of us were at a standstill, kind of a chain reaction in reverse. I decided the Buddhist had a point. Maybe we should slow down. So I got out of the car and walked back to the only idiot of the three on the road and told him the squirrel has stopped us and we should consider this experience as a hint from nature.

Let me tell you something: guys in pickups with big tires aren't Buddhists. He gunned the vehicle past me, past the squirrel and tore off down the road. And at the 258 intersection, he got stopped by a red light.

I was smiling, and I'm sure I saw the squirrel wink.


Piper, co-author with Larry King of Future Talk and Prayer, reflects from Rose Haven.

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Volume VI Number 28
July 16-22, 1998
New Bay Times

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