Slowing the Hell Down

Gentle Readers, if any of you have had more motor vehicle infractions than I have in the past twelve months, well, sit right down on my couch and we’ll talk about it over a beverage of your choice.

I got pulled again this week.  I was in godforsaken Cary at 7 a.m., and was dropping Dawg off at doggie day care to have him professionally entertained and worn slam out, so I could go out for the evening guilt-free while he snoozed after a day of playing King of the Hill on the playground equipment.  I know he does that, because I’ve watched him on doggie cam from my desk at work.  He plays to win.  We don’t do doggie day care often, every six weeks or so, and it’s magic.  He is always sleep-barking in the car within a block of pick-up.  Since we don’t go very often, and I never ever go to Cary if I can help it, I can never remember where the turn is.  So I missed it, and had to pull up to the next light to make a u-turn.  There was an awkward double-stopping situation, so I rolled to a stop, looked up and was trying to decide whether I was supposed to stop at this line or the next one which was much closer to the actual light, rolled forward, and paused, and got a left turn arrow, and pulled forward to turn.  I double checked that there were no “NO U-TURN” signs, and I didn’t see any, executed my u-turn, and then immediately there were blue lights flashing all up in my grill.

According to the Nice Officer, I had not seen the NO U-TURN sign because I had stopped on a railroad track, which you are of course Not Supposed To Do.  Freakin’ Cary, why would you put an intersection a car length from a railroad track, or a railroad track a car length from an intersection? But whatever.   “So, when was your last ticket?” he asked me, and I had to tell it was in May, for speeding through Kentucky to get to Route 66.  He was obviously in a holiday mood and trying to work with me, so he said, “Well, when was your last ticket in North Carolina?” and I had to stare off into space and in my head was saying, “dismissed, paid, out of state, out of state, I think it’s been years?” I do think it’s been years, like ten or fifteen, so why this year I have had five, maybe six brushes with the law is beyond me.

I am not, like, a terrible driver. I wave pedestrians through intersections and am cautious of school buses and neighborhood kids and I always let people merge. This year has been a combination of carelessness and wrong place at the wrong time, with a recurring pattern of trying to do too much.

1. Last December I got pulled for a registration that was 11 days expired.  I thought I had till the 30th. I did not. They threw that one out after I went to the DMV and fixed it. I was frazzled, sleep-deprived from the new puppy, and knew my office was about to shut down.  Registration was the last thing on my mind.

2. Last February I had to go to DC to renew my passport.  I got a robo ticket in the mail two weeks later, for cruising down M Street in Georgetown at 8 miles over the speed limit.  I have now contributed a chunk of cash to the Metro DC school system. Whatever. It’s mean but it doesn’t go on my record. I was just trying to get my passport and get home in a day. It was ambitious.

3. Last May I got pulled in Kentucky, exceeding the speed limit by a significant, significant amount. I was road-weary but happy, and trying to cover a lot of ground, and at the time I got pulled, I was scanning the horizon for a place to stop and rest and get coffee. I totally deserved that one.

4. Four days later I got pulled again in Oklahoma, riding the brakes hard, trying to slow down from highway speed to small-town speed in the course of four or five blocks.  I crossed from a 45 into a 35, while braking, and got pulled for doing 43. I was a mile from Texas, hoping to find a place to stop before nightfall. The nice officer saw my weary dog in the back and gave me a warning.

5. Last month I was trying to get up to Philly in time for a dinner meeting, and was in a string of toll booths.  I got my cash out, and thought I was in the correct lane, when my GPS started yelling at me go left Go Left GO LEFT!! And I did, thinking I had to take an exit, only to realize that the exit took me through an EZ-Pass lane.  I do not have an EZ-Pass. I fully expect an expensive robo ticket to arrive in the mail at any second.

6. And then this week I was running late, the dog was over-excited, I missed my turn, and executed about four illegal moves at the same time. The officer was a decent fellow, and really seemed intent on educating me on what went wrong so that I wouldn’t get in an unsafe situation again at that light.  He let me off with a “have a nice day and drive carefully.” I did not deserve that much mercy.

With the recurring theme of “I was just trying to…” in my mind, it is totally relevant that I have spent the last few weeks zooming from place to place trying to finish all my errands, get groceries, run out of flour again and get more groceries, run to work and back, take the dog to the park before it’s too dark, see everyone who needs to be seen before they scatter for Christmas, and squeeze just one more thing onto the to-do list every day. I’ve accomplished plenty.  It’s mostly a blur. So much for taking time during Advent to pause, reflect, anticipate, and wait, which is what the lead-up to Christmas is supposed to be about.

Last night I went to see my most badass friend.  She rides a motorcycle and owns a tattoo parlor. That kind of badass, and also she is one of the sweetest, funniest, easiest-to-laugh people you’ll ever meet, the kind who’s always hosting fund raisers for people who need help. A couple of weeks ago she was in a terrifying accident.  She was riding her motorcycle down Peace Street at lunch time, and some guy in a hurry pulled out in front of her to make a left turn, and they collided. He didn’t see her.  He was just trying to do too much, and she lectured him about that as she was lying in the street waiting for the ambulance as they both held the tourniquet on her leg. All it takes is a minute of carelessness like that, and you can change your life, or someone else’s, in an instant.  None of our errands are worth that kind of hurry. None of them are worth that kind of risk.

She’s going to be ok. She’s also been though surgery after surgery to re-build her leg, and she’s going to have a long recovery ahead.  She’ll need a lot of help and support, but she’s made of steel, that one.  (Kind of literally as well as metaphorically now.  Bionic woman. So cool.)  But we were talking about the careless driver, and believe you me, I have stopped to think about the amount of rushing around I’ve been doing, and I am officially slowing the hell down.  Not just in the car, but in a “what’s really important?” sense.  This season in particular, ending one year and starting another, spending time with loved ones, taking time to think about what matters, and who matters, is a great time to slow down quite a bit, take stock, re-evaluate, enjoy and appreciate, and make some course corrections.

I’m throwing out the to-do list for the rest of the year.  I’m done zooming around and accomplishing for a bit.  Come find me and we’ll sit still and have a beer and chat.  I’m not going anywhere fast.

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