Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Very Thin Slice of Life

I was on my way to work this morning.  It was darker at 6:30 am than it was just a week ago before springing forward this past Sunday.   I turned left onto Waukegan Road heading north toward my client’s offices.   At first glance in my rear view mirror, I recognized that the car behind me was a recent model BMW.   This was evident by the angry headlights.  The headlights look angry because of the angled in eyebrows above the circular headlights.  The eyebrows are LED turn signals and running lights.  They are very distinctive.

At the first light, the beige 500 series BMW pulled up next to me.  I glanced over and noted a bald or shaved head man in his forties or early fifties with rimless glasses.  I noticed that he had the map light on and was reading a book.  Up until then I was only noting my environment which is something any quality engineer does as a matter of course.  At that point, my interest and curiosity was fully engaged.  Was this fellow reading while he was driving?  What was he reading and why was he reading while he was driving?

My first question was answered as soon as the light turned green.  The fellow closed the book, set it on the seat next to him, turned off the map light, and took off.  At the next light, I was next to the fellow again.  Sure enough, as soon as he stopped he flipped on the map light and began reading again.   While I was next to him, I was behind him just a bit where I could see the open book.  My first guess was that he was reading The Bible because the book was relatively thick and it had one of those ribbons sewn into the binding that was used as a bookmark.  It was the bookmark that led me to believe he was reading The Bible.  The light turned green and we zoomed off.

At the next light, we were again next to each other.  The fellow was again reading.  This time, while not able to actually see much, I was looking to see if the pages were in two columns of text.  This would all but verify he was reading The Bible.  This however was not the case.  I was able to see a pattern however.  There was a block of text in the center of the two-thirds of the page.  This block was bordered by a rectangle and there was more text around outside the box.  I now concluded that the man was reading The Talmud which was the text in the middle of the page. The text around the box would have been the commentaries. 

As the traffic lights became less frequent, there was not another opportunity to revise the theory any further.  Instead, I pondered why this fellow was reading in such infrequent and short spurts.  Was the book that interesting?  Was he that dedicated to his faith?  Was he making incredibly effective use of his time?  All of these are possible and yet, there may be something I have not thought of.

Me?  I like to listen to National Public Radio in the morning while driving.  It is my only regular dosage of news.  To my thinking, that is pretty effective use of time.  Even if I were reading the most interesting book I have ever read, I probably would never try to read a book or newspaper while driving even if only at stoplights.

I wonder if anyone else ever noticed this fellow reading at stoplights?

There you have it, my fifteen minute slice of life from this morning.

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