Breaking the rules

22 Jan

Driving to Fernbank with Walter the other day, I saw this kid near Paideia, and he was skateboarding home from school with his helmet strapped on to the back of his backpack. I wanted to say, “So glad you have that helmet, kid, but you are near lots of city traffic, and it won’t do you any good back there.” I wondered if he put it on once he got closer to home. He seemed like the nice kind of kid who wants to do what his mom tells him to. He did after all lug the helmet around all day.

My brother would have died in a motorcycle accident when I was three if he hadn’t been wearing his helmet. He was not the kind of kid (well, he was 18) who followed the rules. But it was cold that day in California, so he wore it to stay warm. Good thing because when his head met the curb after the car t-boned him, it was only his leg that needed pins to hold it together.

Humans like having rules. They make us feel safe. But we certainly don’t like following them.

It’s hard for me to admit this, but a couple months ago I hit someone on the road. It was stop-and-go traffic on Northside (mostly stop) and I was running late. I was checking my phone for alternate routes through the neighborhoods when BAM. It sounded (and felt) bad. And my first thought was “Oh great. F@$%!” Somehow we were right next to this shoulder on the road and both of us pulled over. As I got out of my car, this young lady my age got out of her car, and as we both examined the cars for damage, we found none.

She said to me, “You are one lucky woman.”

And didn’t I know it. We exchanged information in case of delayed injury (though everyone was fine) and went on our merry ways. I told my dad about it when I met him for dinner ten minutes later, and when I kept saying “I feel so bad about this!”, he said “Listen, Walter wasn’t in the car. Nothing was damaged. No one was hurt. Take this as a learning experience. Phones are worse than drinking and driving, and don’t do it again.”

I should have known better. This weekend was the anniversary of a friend/acquaintance of mine who was killed in a car wreck while she was on her phone in a thunderstorm. A week before her 27th birthday, with her whole life ahead of her, a boyfriend who was about to propose, several grad schools who had her on the top of their lists, and she made one mistake that ended her life.

I didn’t think it could happen to me. I thought I was being safe phone user/car driver. But you can bet that I don’t use my phone while driving anymore. I pull over if I need to check directions. I wait to look at that text message. Because next time it might not be no big deal.



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