The other day my close friend Eddie told me all about his recent experience watching NASCAR races at our local Nashville Superspeedway. "That's cool," I said to Ed, who, like me, is a native Northerner.
"Tell me, Ed. Was your chief motivation for attending the NASCAR race to observe some nasty auto wrecks?"
Eddie pondered my question for a moment. "Actually, yeah, seeing the crashes is one of my main reasons for going to NASCAR. But just being there for the races was a huge adrenaline rush."
"Thanks for your honesty, Ed," I replied. "Why do you think it is that many of us find auto accidents so fascinating, whether they occur on a racing track or on an interstate highway?"
"I don't think of it at all, to be honest with you, Tim. I have no idea," Eddie stated flatly. It was here that I could tell our conversation was moving into territory that was a bit uncomfortable for my pal Ed, so that was "the end of the road," as it were, for that particular subject. Our dialogue had stalled, hit a dead end, run out of gas—let me put the brakes on these awful metaphorical puns.
At this time I would like to tender the following questions for us to ponder:
- Why is it that some of us enjoy watching auto races at least partly because of the possibility of observing spectacular crashes?
- Why is it that some of us decelerate our vehicles on roadways and "rubberneck" to catch a glimpse whenever we pass an accident scene (the more gruesome, the "better")?
- Why is it that some of us are so attracted to media (television shows, Internet viral videos, Web sites, etc.) that feature auto accidents and other types of human carnage?
Please note that I am in no way, shape or manner exempting myself from the aforementioned list. I'm quite a few things, but I do not believe that I am a hypocrite.
You are correct if you surmise that I have my personal theory regarding all of this. I'm positive it isn't original (I fully understand that I do not have an 'original' thought in my head). Nevertheless, here it is:
What may be a conscious or unconscious motivating factor in a person's fascination with acts of 'incidental morbidity' such as auto wrecks is that observing these events brings the person into intimate, direct recollection of his or her fragile mortality.
Yeah—perhaps I'm projecting my own "stuff" on others. If you feel that way, then please accept my apologies, slough off my remark and go about your business. My comment certainly applies to me inasmuch as I am reminded on a daily basis that I am not guaranteed my next breath, much less my next day of life.