On a recent Saturday evening, I had the pleasure of picking up my son after his chess tournament.
Whether on my quiet country road or in the well-illuminated industrial park, I enjoyed driving through what Louis Armstrong sang of as “the dark sacred night.”
A much more TYPICAL excursion happened a few months ago when I drove to another town at dusk to deal with insurance matters. As I navigated the two-lane road, every vehicle I met seared my eyeballs with headlights that in a previous life probably penetrated murky ocean depths to locate sunken pirate ships.
At first, I thought I was the victim of those human dim bulbs who insist on driving with their high beams activated all the time. Whether it’s dazzling you straight on or distracting you with reflected light in your rearview mirror, they’re always eager to serve. If they could figure some way to blast photons at you through your bathroom medicine cabinet mirror, they would be able to die happy.
But, no, it dawned on me that they weren’t necessarily being irresponsible with high beams. Most of them were Blinding Me With Science (the monstrosities that represent standard bulbs today).
Yes, I generally loathe all the manufacturer overkill, poorly aimed bulbs, status symbol monster trucks with headlights at eye level, tailgaters driving 10 miles above the speed limit in a monsoon, suicidal deer, flickering streetlamps and meandering Man In Black pedestrians that make for stressful post-sundown driving.
Judging by posts on social media, lots of motorists share my concerns.
Comments on message boards run the gamut. Some writers are extremely sympathetic of one another. Some blather on forever with nerdy jargon about spectrums and diffusion.
Some of the tips for counteracting night-driving problems were offered in a neighborly manner, but others edged into VICTIM BLAMING.”Clean your windshield, wear special eyeglasses, don’t be born before 1975 and make sure your conjoined twin becomes an optometrist.”
Given such attitudes, I do my best not to accentuate my baby blues or my pouty lips. (“You’re just BEGGING for me to light up your world, baby!”)
Apparently, there is a demand for modern headlights; but I don’t remember feeling all that deprived back in the 80s before the technology race started. I mean, Ferris Bueller didn’t use his day off to lobby for halogen lights, high-intensity discharge lights, LEDs, xenon lights, pepper-spray lights, death ray lights, Three Stooges eye-poke lights or whatever is trendy this week. And Doc Brown in “Back To The Future” didn’t say, “Where we’re going, we don’t need corneas.”
Of course, some of the problem comes from customizing and aftermarket replacement parts, although manufacturers don’t do a lot to discourage this. (“We had no idea that people might misalign their lights after they leave the factory. No, I’m not winking. On the way here, I got blinded by a soccer mom in an SUV.”)
Automotive engineers are supposedly laboring to fine-tune lighting, but I wish they would employ more patience and common sense from Day One. It takes a period equaling nearly three reigns of Queen Elizabeth to get a prescription drug for itchy left pinky finger approved, so why do car manufacturers have to rush to market with ill-designed products that use other motorists as guinea pigs?
(“I could have sworn they were perfected. The crash test dummy never blinked once!”)