Whenever friends or family are leaving after visiting me, I always say to them, “drive careful.” I know it should be, drive carefully, but I like the casual informality the grammatical irregularity creates—be careful. Still, I wonder if as they are driving home, they ever think to themselves, “I could recklessly run that yellow light and arrive 20 seconds sooner, but I promised Doug that I would drive careful.” And then they stop, just as a concrete truck plows through the intersection. Certain death averted.
In my head, that frequently happens, but I know, in reality, it never does. Drive careful is as much of an admonishment as have a nice day. It is for this reason that I now salute their departure with the imperative, “be safe, and don’t get AIDS.” It has just as much sentiment and all of the same outcome. “I wasn’t going to use a condom because I don’t visit the brothels in Haiti very often, but then I remembered how he said, be safe and don’t get AIDS.”
So, be safe and don’t get AIDS. It’s the new goodbye.