Reflective belts better than the alternative

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Austin M. May
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
By day, I'm mild-mannered Air Force journalist Austin May. But when night falls, and morale is in danger, I don my sweats and cutoff t-shirt and take to my art studio.

In each of my Air Force-themed comics, "Air Force Blues," "Box D Blues" and "Air Force Toons," on varying levels of facetiousness I make light of the life we all live in the Air Force. A common theme in my works, especially lately, is the mandatory wear of reflective belts.

So, with as much fun as I make of the dreaded "disco belt," would I be a sellout if I said "Just wear the dang thing!"?

Before you light the torches and grab the pitchforks, hear me out.

This morning, while driving around the dark side of the flight line to the gym, I had to swerve to avoid a runner in the road, wearing all dark clothes and no reflective belt. As I drove away, half shaking and half swearing, I thought to myself, "You're going in the comic!"

There's no sugar coating necessary for this one - that person was stupid, or at least made a stupid decision. The roads were icy and there was barely any lighting other than my headlights, which only go out so far. Had I been distracted by anything or had it taken a second longer to see that runner, he might be going to the morgue instead of my drawing board.

The folks in charge of safety will probably cringe when I say, without hesitation, that reflective belts are annoying. I've been known to join the crowds who cry foul and say "I'm smart enough not to walk down the middle of a dark road at night! Why do I have to wear this infernal device?"

That's probably what that runner thought too, and it very well could have cost him his life this morning. Not so smart now, huh?

Now, I'm not saying you should wear them on a brightly lit sunny day or while sitting at your desk working, although I've seen plenty of that. (Disclaimer: If your command says you need to do that, don't listen to me.) But if it's dark out, you're on foot and you don't like broken bones or death, wear it. Cry about it, whine about it, hate it with the fire of a thousand suns, but wear it.

Remember folks, there's a difference between invisible and invincible. If you walk around at night in a dark place without your disco belt, by default you're going to be the former.

As a cartoonist, I try as hard as I can to make people laugh, smile or at least shake their head knowingly. It's a lot harder to do that when, as a base, we're mourning the loss of one of our teammates.

Make my job a little easier, will ya?