They’re not Thoughtless. They’re Astronauts.

Astronauts need space.
Astronauts need space.

It’s funny when your kids start driving and noticing how frequently the adults around them don’t obey the traffic laws. Look, Mom, that guy didn’t signal. Look, Mom, that lady ran the stop sign. Again, I need to fill them in. I explain to my kids that it’s because these people are just a bunch of astronauts (pronounced ass-tro-nauts). Or at least I assume they’re astronauts, because our earthly laws don’t seem to interest them. It’s our job to look the other way as they zoom through life at warp speed, double-parking if they have to stop for Tang.

Astronauts are highly trained people, with billions of dollars of research and equipment riding on their full concentration and success. Do you think they really have the extra mental energy to signal to the driver behind them that they plan to turn left? Of course not, they’re headed to infinity and beyond! And if that happens to involve a left-hand turn then the civilians behind them can enjoy the surprise.

When the space shuttle is scheduled to go, it’s scheduled to go. NASA’s not going to wait just because its lead astronaut had to drive 20 mph in a school zone. When you see her zipping by at 8:30am like she’s in a high-speed chase, just remember what’s really at stake. Same goes for the guy who’s roaring past you on the shoulder of the highway. It’s a little known fact that the highway shoulder was the brainchild of the space program. You can’t expect someone who moves through space at 17,500 mph to sit in traffic.

Ditto for idling. The extra time it takes to turn off the ignition and then back on again could unravel a carefully prepared mission. Not to mention the indignity of being slightly too hot or slightly too cold. (Though you’d think the spacesuit would adjust for that. Hmm.)

Speaking of that cumbersome spacesuit, when I happen upon a car parked in not one, but two parking spots, I laugh to myself, “Ah! We have an astronaut in our midst.” A person in a huge spacesuit and helmet cannot be expected to squeeze out of her car with another one crammed right next to her. She pulls in right down the dividing line so she doesn’t smudge her nice white suit on your dirty Suburban. If astronauts need anything, it’s space.

In a pinch, astronauts will ride the train. They show up around rush hour and we need to be mindful of the precious cargo they cart around. Those might look like normal handbags and briefcases taking up the coveted seat next to them, but they likely contain moon rocks or Martian mud or the keys to the space station. You can’t expect somebody to just put that stuff in his lap. I want to remind the tired commuters that the sacrifice that they are making in standing up all the way home is in the name of science. It may feel like a small cramp in your left leg, but really it’s a giant leap for mankind.

Also critical to the astronauts is communication. They need to be in constant contact with ground control, so if they are first in line at a traffic light and that light turns green, just be cool about it. When that text goes through and they’re good and ready, you’ll be on your way.

I hope I’ve helped to clear things up. Next time you see someone behaving this way, don’t take it personally. Be grateful for their hard work and wish them Godspeed.

 

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