Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Blinded by the light – raising rising sun awareness

After six-plus years, I feel pretty well acclimated to Arizona. I might as well have been born here. Blood is thinner, I shrug off encounters with scorpions, got a gun now … the whole deal. None of those things are true, but still. You see what I’m saying.

But there is one thing I have yet to adjust to, and that is the extreme brightness and location of the morning sun while driving. I realize that is a strange and specific thing to say, but it is a serious problem for me and I will explain.

It is not an issue in the winter when it is still dark on my way to work, or the summer when the sun reaches its peak height at 5 a.m. and remains there until 8 p.m. In the spring and fall, however, the morning sun rests at its most perilous point—over the mountains yet under my car’s sun visor.

What does this mean? It means I CANNOT SEE ANYTHING. Seeing is important while driving, according to AAA, yet no one here talks about the dangers of driving while blinded by the sun. People think it is a non-issue. “Stop being an East Coast hippie!” they say. “I once drove my pickup truck to the gun show while blindfolded to win a bet.” Well call me what you want—I am going to raise awareness.

Most of my drive to work is eastbound, so I pretty much can’t see the entire way. Sure, I wear my sunglasses, but sunglasses don’t help. In fact they almost act as a nuisance—another obstruction to my ability to visualize space and objects. This is me on my way to work every day the past few weeks:

(Head scrunched down to see below sun visor, forearm over eyes as a means to further block sun, driving 10 miles per hour with cars zooming past me left and right) “I CAN’T SEE!”

The problem is at its worst when I turn onto a street going directly eastbound. Is a child crossing the street to get to school? Is a homeless person crossing the street with a shopping cart full of garbage? Is this even a street? Did I die a while back and now I am driving into the blinding white lights of eternal rest? WHO KNOWS. I will just turn as slowly as possible to limit all potential damage.

I have been considering buying a pair of those humongous, thick, dark sunglasses that old people wear that take up their entire heads. What are those for, cataracts? I will get a prescription if that’s what it takes.

This is also a problem in the evenings when, of course, I return home westbound as the sun sets. The only difference being by this point, both the sun and myself are exhausted from a day’s work, so it’s not as bright, and I just drive undeterred by my inability to see what’s in front of me. Whatever.

But the morning, when I haven’t yet lost my will to survive? That’s a problem. Does anyone else have an issue with this? If so please email me so I can start my support group, Arizona Residents Making Everyday Drivable (ARMED). I don’t know what the solution is, but maybe we can get some government money or something.

Note: This column appears in the 10/17 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/18 issue of the Peoria Times.

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