Drive Daintily

Apart from what the title says, I do not typically drive daintily.  I often am on my way and you can tell simply by watching the car swoosh past.  Yesterday I was on my way to work, running just barely right on time, with any little setback like the very probable red light upon my entry into town likely to make me late, and I was on the usual dirt road I take to work.  It’s my usual route because I’ve never seen a cop car on it, human and animal traffic is often minimal if existent so heeding the speed limit is not always a safety-for-others requirement and it’s also quicker to get me from home to work that way than any other route I know of.  So coming around this bend yesterday I was startled to see a big 4Runner coming around the bend toward me, and since it was a presumably empty dirt road, I was naturally in the middle of it.  A quick swerve to the far right and a barreling past the car proved a sufficient maneuver to save the both of us pricey expenses on car repairs.  However, the lady driver (who I soon found out had young children in the back seat) was not satisfied.  She stopped, stayed there for a moment and so did I, wondering if they were alright.  Naturally, I watched to see if they got out and needed help with something or other, and they didn’t, so I began to move forward, bringing the car to a flatter part of the road so I could use the quite defective emergency brake (that doesn’t work on hills) and maybe get out to see if things were alright.  She then backed up toward me and asked that I get out of the car.  So I drove ahead onto the flat part of the road, turned off the car and got out.  She backed all the way up beside me and I explained that my emergency brake doesn’t work on hills so I had to pull up.  Reactionless to my explanation, she simply and very sternly said “I just came back so that you could apologize to me.  I know this road, I live on this road, and I know the the people and animals that live on this road and there was no reason at all for you to be going as fast as you were going just now.  You’re lucky I wasn’t going as fast as you were going.”  So, naturally, I was ashamed, saw her children in the back seat, apologized and asked if everyone was alright.  In a rush to leave, she shouted back that yes, but… and the crumpling of dirt and rumble of engine drowned out the last of her words.  I couldn’t help but wonder how she expected me to hear her when she was driving away.  Nonetheless, the rest of the car ride was silent for me, my music off, and slow, compared to my normal habits or rushed driving.  Even on the way home that night, I was thinking about the near-accident, which could have been my fourth in less than a year.  I drove slowly home, despite the late hour of 12:30 in the morning when nobody is ever on that road, people or cars, though animals have been seen by me pretty often in the late hours of the night.  I even saw a few deer with their eyes shining demoniacally in the headlights as they stared at me, wondering what I was coming toward them so bright and loud compared to the night they live in.  I couldn’t help but think how interesting it was, how fascinating, that someone’s mere angered comment could make me rethink my whole habit of driving and my attitude toward transporting myself fro place to place.  I couldn’t help but be worried at work that she might come into the store and recognize me, berate me once again, but in my place of employment in front of any and all other observers.  Happily for me, that didn’t happen, but still, she made a profound impact on the way I think about and conduct my driving experience, and I think how interesting it is tat even after totaling a car over the summer I could still drive fast (even though when the car was hit I was pulling out of a parking lot and going about 5 mph).  I thought how fascinating it was that I needed a reminder of the fact that driving was dangerous, that I couldn’t just remember because of my experience hitting a deer, being hit by a car, almost crashing a brand new car when a tire blew out, and now this.  I guess I’m thankful to the lady, despite embarrassment and shame at the time, because she did make a difference, and though she’ll probably never know but to make sure her kids are even safer on that road, she changed the way I drive.  I don’t want to find her and tell her that she changed my life or something cinematic and so cheesy, because that’s just not me or my instinct, but it is my instinct to constantly evaluate, examine and analyze things, to wonder and ponder, to realize and contemplate.  And now I’m grateful, though still inside a bit hot from shame and my heart may skip a beat when I round that corner on my way to work today, but I will be over on the side, slower, and cautious on my way to work, and anywhere while I drive.  But now I can’t help but think that I might end up eventually back in the same habit as I used to be; I may some day still need another reminder of the supposedly pre-established fact that cars and driving are dangerous, that lives are at stake and money can very easily be lost with the whimsical rush of someone in a hurry.  I wonder how many times this happens to others, and I wonder how many times that lady will think of me and wonder if she made a difference, or if she’ll just think of me as a typically dangerous teenager, driving too fast and almost hurting her and her kids (I assume that’s who they were, though they could have been someone else’s kids).  For now, I guess I’m just changed in my driving practices, and it seemed so trivial that a simple demand of apology could do so much to my habits.

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