Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Glurge: Teen girl who disobeys her parents and sneaks out of the house to go to a party only to die in hospital later that night after a two-car accident caused by her drunk, stoned date claims not only his life but that of her mom and dad.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1999]
Origins: The slow and painful death of whoever inflicted this maudlin piece of rhyming glurge upon us would indeed be "poetic justice." But remember the valuable lesson presented here: Beware
Or, to put that in a less cryptic fashion, the piece above is a cautionary tale meant to illustrate the dangers inherent in the taking of drugs. "If Jeff hadn't been high," says the piece, "he'd have gotten Jenny home
The poem is meant to drive home the lesson that not taking drugs is only part of what teens must do to safeguard themselves from their ill effects; the larger message is that all teens everywhere have to learn not to get into cars driven by anyone whose abilities to drive safely have been compromised, be it by drugs, alcohol, lack of sleep, or heightened emotions. (Anger, sadness, or even elation can cause drivers to be much less aware of what's going on around them, a situation that can lead to horrific car crashes.)
If there's a lesson to be learned from this truly abysmal poem, it's to find someone else to get you home you if you're at all unsure about your driver's condition. Call a cab, or ask a friend. Ask your friend's folks to give you a lift. Call your parents, even if the hour is late and they're going to be mad at you — it's far better to reach home in one
Two special factors contribute to the problem of teens' riding with folks who clearly shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel: presumption of immortality and a desire to not offend the driver.
Only as humans complete the developmental process of growing up do they come to realize that bad things can happen to them. During the teen years, this realization is still in a state of growth between the child's unawareness of danger and the adult's comprehension that bad things not only happen to others, they can happen to them. Common to adolescents is a potentially deadly combination of awareness of danger wed to an almost unshakable belief that those particular hazards will never have any impact on them. Teens know about death and carnage, but they view them uncomprehendingly as elements that unfold on the big screen solely for entertainment purposes. In the rare instances where tragedy touches someone close to them, they tend to wave away the potential realization that they live in a jeopardy-infested world by viewing what happened on a "one case" basis, an aberration to the normal course of things. (This "It'll never happen to me" state of mind is a driving force behind the belief that gals can't get pregnant the first time they engage in sex or that teens won't catch AIDS from their partners.)
The second factor that prevents teens from standing up to impaired drivers and refusing to ride with them is the potent need for approval and its resulting fear of attracting criticism. They don't wish to be ridiculed ("You're such a baby!"), nor do they want to chance a friend's thinking less of them ("Bob will never ask me out again if I make a big deal out of this"). That shying away from — and risking the disapproval of — someone who was prepared to drive while impaired is considered a social shortcoming only illustrates the point: In teens the need for approval runs so strong that it often blinds them to what would be glaringly obvious to adults, that someone willing to risk his and others' lives owes them the apology, not the other way around.
There are no easy cures for a teen's presumption of immortality and desperate need for approval other than growing up, but perhaps repetition is the key to overcoming their effects: Don't get into a car driven by someone who's clearly under the weather. Don't, don't, and don't.
The poem attempts to impart this message through the literary device of "escalation of tragedy." The accident that takes Jenny's life not only kills her pot-smoking boyfriend, but her parents as well. Fatal accidents where someone who loses his life riding in one vehicle being related to someone who dies in the other car are rare but they do happen, as was the case in 2002 when two sisters traveling in different vehicles died in the same accident. There have also been cases of parents and children riding in separate cars being involved in the same auto accident where no fatalities occurred. In similar fashion, in March 2002 a man in the Seattle area witnessed a fatal crash in which his daughter was killed: Brian Christianson was on his way to pick up his daughter, Alina Christianson, when a speeding car careened by him and crashed into another. He stopped to see if he could help, peered into the car, and saw his dead daughter in the vehicle, but the light was bad and he didn't realize the victim was his daughter. That's not quite an example of this particular literary device making the transition from fiction into reality, but it's close enough to merit mention.
An example that's even closer was the December 2001 deaths of Diane Samples and Vivian Green. The pair were out looking at Christmas lights when their vehicle was hit from behind by a car traveling at
We can't safeguard ourselves from every danger, but it only makes sense to safeguard ourselves from the ones we can. Don't drive while impaired, and don't drive with anyone else who is.
Barbara "be a wreckless driver" Mikkelson
Last updated: 25 February 2007
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