An online dictionary defines a social contract as "an implicit agreement among people that results in the organization of society."
We live by such a compact. It's how we function. It's what binds us to pay taxes, to not run red lights, to look out for one another.
But it's hard not to wonder whether that compact is unraveling in an age consumed by distractions, self-focus and a preoccupation with doing everything in a hurry. We leave no margins for error.
On Thursday, while on my way to get coffee, I came upon a family waiting to cross Mendocino Avenue at Fourth Street at Courthouse Square. It appeared to be a mom and daughter, about 4, and a grandmother. All were finishing off smoothies.
When the light changed, the girl took a half-step forward, but her mom was still clinging to her hand — thankfully. Because at that moment, a truck gunned it to beat the light. While it may have been yellow as that truck entered the intersection, it was green for us as it raced across our path.
What's clear is all that little girl saw was green.
"That's why we wait and look both ways even when it is our turn to go," I heard the mother say after the vehicle passed.
Yes, even when it is our turn.
At 6:04 p.m. later that same day, a similar crossing occurred just a mile and a half away, but the outcome, this time, was devastating.
At the corner of Rockwell Place and West Ninth Street, a mother and her three children — a 4-year-old boy, his twin sister and their older sister — were waiting to cross West Ninth to get to Jacobs Park next to Lincoln Elementary School.
At that hour, the park was filled with children playing soccer. The children were, no doubt, eager to join them. But they had to cross the four lanes of West Ninth, which is no easy task. Traffic is heavy, and there is no traffic light although the crosswalk is marked in yellow stripes. The mom and the children waited.
A driver heading west stopped to allow the family to cross, in keeping with that common bond of goodwill.
But then that compact shattered.
Witnesses say as the family started to cross, another westbound driver, in a light blue car, raced into the intersection on the outside lane — either oblivious or uncaring as to the safety of others. The car struck the 4-year-old boy, who had been lagging behind, at high speed.
"I thought he flew out of the window, out the car, he was so high in the air," a witness, Brandii Eyler, told Staff Writer Sam Scott. Scott noted that Eyler fought back tears in telling what she saw. We fight back tears in just reading about it.
The boy was taken to Oakland Children's Hospital, where many prayed for a miracle. But it wasn't to be. At 7:34 a.m. Friday, the boy, Christopher Rowe, was pronounced dead.</CS>
Making the story all the more disturbing is what the driver did after the collision. He drove away. He ran and hid, proving he's not only uncaring, he's a coward. Fortunately, someone had the presence of mind to track down the guy and, police say, the driver was seen getting into a Volvo driven by a woman. The witness got the license number, and police were able to find the Volvo's owner.