I’m sure the poor unsuspecting guy I went to high school with never thought we’d have a chance encounter 15 years after graduation. I’m also sure he wouldn’t have pegged me for “Mostly likely to be a crazy mother and staunch defender of road rules”. If he had, maybe he would have chosen a different vocation – one that would have afforded him the luxury of avoiding future-me.
I was driving to Aunt M’s house one day with Luke and Madeleine. I made the left turn onto the dead end street where Aunt M lives, just as I had done countless times before. We were singing along to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and as I turned the wheel I saw that a sanitation truck was barreling down the street in reverse and it was smack in the middle of the road, rather than Hello! on the driver’s right-hand side. Two guys hanging off the back of the truck shouted to the driver to stop (probably fearing that they were about to become pancaked against my car) as I laid heavily on the horn. At this point I had already pulled over as far as possible, nearly onto the sidewalk, because there wasn’t time to back up. I won’t describe what could have happened. Thankfully, the truck stopped in time.
I immediately felt guilt-ridden for not having gauged the truck’s speed properly before making the turn. Worst mother of the year! Normally, I pride myself on being cautious and nerdy. Geek Squad Captain, that’s me! Where your sunglasses so you don’t get ocular cancer is something that might come from my playbook. I’m that much of a party animal.
Along with my self-loathing came rage. Is this reckless sanitation maniac fracking kidding me?! Drunk? Stupid? Drunk and stupid?
I parked the car in front of Aunt M’s and asked her to mind the kids for a moment. She had witnessed what had happened (knowing Aunt M, her heart was in her mouth) and didn’t ask where I was going.
For some reason I remember how loud and deliberate my steps sounded against the pavement as I chased down the truck. It reminded me of the way my first grade teacher’s navy blue pumps sounded in the hallway whenever a bunch of us were fooling around in the bathroom. Her militant nature was intimidating and I was channeling her fervor.
The driver had pulled over at the next block to continue his route.
“Hey!” I shouted, waving my arms. “Stop!” (Yes, at this moment I did feel like Claire from Modern Family – only crazier. And yes, I’m sure I looked like I was swatting away a hive of bees.)
Again, the guys on the back of the truck called to the driver to get his attention. The driver, whom I recognized instantly, was a guy I’d gone to high school with. We’ll call him Griffin, even though I so want to use his real name right now.
His initial expression when we made eye contact was one of oblivion, even innocence. I almost expected him to say Who me?
“Do you realize that you almost just crashed into me when you were backing up over there? Did you even realize how fast you were going or even look where you were going? I had my kids in the car!”
At this point you may be wondering if I paused to allow him to respond.
“You are driving a truck,” I said slowly, enunciating each word as if I was speaking to a deaf person whose native language is not English. “You can kill somebody if you’re not paying attention.” My face was hot (and red, I’m sure) and I was all too aware that I had a lot of saliva in my mouth. (Is this what men feel like when they have that testosterone-y urge to punch somebody?)
Griffin was not defensive. Was he high? “I honestly didn’t realize I was going that fast. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
It would be cool if next I told you that I said Get down out of that truck and I’ll finish the route so you can see how a person with a brain drives correctly! Unfortunately, I’ve never driven stick. Yeah, that’s what stopped me from taking the wheel.
“Open your eyes. Look around you. Safety has to be your top priority,” I said. “Please, please, please slow down. Before you hurt someone.”
“I will. I’m sorry.”
I still didn’t feel like I’d penetrated his thick head. “You’re Griffin, right?”
“I’m Lindsay. We went to high school together.”
He smiled, “Oh yeah. How ya doin’?” His innocent expression returned, as if we’d run into each other at Starbucks.
Griffin, are the carbon monoxide detectors working in your house?
I took an impatient breath, “Please, just slow down. My kids were in the car.”
I turned and walked away. My heels struck the pavement even harder this time.
What did I take away from that day? Intense gratefulness and a reminder that I’ll never run out of things to beat myself up about.
Oh yeah, and an anxiety attack as I tried to fall asleep later that night. Oh motherhood…how sweet it is.