Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Too Fast?

Do I drive too fast?  I’d debate it, but Dave says yes, and the Universe seems to agree.  Yesterday, on my way to school, a cop pulled me over for speeding.

Even before purchasing my new Ford hybrid and embarking on my quest for maximum mileage, the infirmities of my beloved old Caravan necessitated sensitive and conservative driving.  No sudden stops.  No revving.  No speeding.  Together, we chugged along at a moderate pace so I could react swiftly if her eccentricities threatened a breakdown.  

Now, moderate speeds are the means to hit my target mpg of 45.  When the cop pulled me over, I was gliding down the hill on Bronson Road, no gas, foot poised over the brake.  I’d checked the speedometer moments before and it read maybe 30 mph. 

This officer was the kind of cop I wouldn’t want to antagonize:  visor pulled low, head shaved, jaw tight, bottom lip out-thrust.  Stern. 

“Lady,” he said, “When I pulled in behind you, just after you saw me and jammed on your brakes, you were going 40.  So I hate to think what you were doing before.  It’s 25 on this road, and the Dogwood Festival’s this weekend.”

By his expression, it was clear he envisioned me plowing down whole families as they crossed the road with their arms laden with craft show goodies and bake sale cupcakes.  Still, I had not slammed on the brakes – just eased them on a trifle - and could not believe I’d reached the speed he claimed.  Still, I was not about to argue with the man.  

“I apologize, Officer.  To be honest, I just got this car and I’m trying to boost the mileage, so I really have been driving carefully, and….”

“Lady.”  He cut me off, voice hard.  He gestured with one hand, thumb and forefingers opening and closing like a pair of chattering false teeth.  “You’re going on and on, blah, blah, blah.  I’m just telling you it’s 25 on this road.  You’re lucky I don’t give you a ticket.” 

He turned to face forward, said, “Have a nice day,” and drove off.

“Blah, blah, blah?”  Ouch.  I do blather sometimes, it’s true, but if he treated me that way, dressed as I was for work in a blouse and black slacks, the epitome of a friendly Fairfield County matron, I can only imagine how that exchange might have plummeted if I’d been wearing my black hoodie. 

I crept onward to school, amazed at how ridiculously slow 25 was, and finding it very difficult to maintain that speed.

The next day, I was driving Park Avenue on my way to Mercy Learning Center, running a hint behind schedule.  I stopped at a traffic light and you can imagine my joy when a student driver took a left turn, placing himself in front of me once the light changed.  Great.

The young one did precisely what he should have, crawling along at 25.  I crept along behind him, and arrived at MLC only a few minutes late. 

Not to read too much into this, but I wondered if these two incidents were cosmically related.  Were they reminders to prevent an accident that was otherwise awaiting me?  Or was the lesson broader? 

My route to work follows tree-shaded streets lined with historic homes and centuries old walls, not that I notice them.  And when he gets in my car, Dave is always surprised that the same CD plays for months before I change it.  To his raised eyebrow, I’ll say, “Don’t even hear it, Hon. I’m inside my head.”

Truth.  Too often, I’m on auto-pilot and my faithful cars get me where I’m going.  Oh, I’m watching the road and obeying signs, but it’s amazing what one can see and hear without actually perceiving.  I can say the same of walks in the woods or even a busy day; my focus is inward and my senses serve only to keep me on track. 

In her book, My Grandfather’s Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen recalls an old prayer: “Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles. Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing. Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightening, illuminates the darkness in which we walk. Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns, unconsumed. And we, clay touched by God, will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, “How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it.”

Spring has been generous over the past few days.  The air is rose-scented, soft, and warm on the skin.  Warblers astonish with their range of showy trills and melodies.  God’s roadside gardens bloom with wild daisies, purple phlox, and clover.  It is a season that caresses, and as I walk, or drive, I do so more slowly, smiling at the bounty of gifts.  Maybe I owe thanks to the cop and student driver for the reminder to pay attention.