Friday, June 20, 2014

Flashback Friday - Why I Don't Drive

It was a clear sunny summer morning in August of 2013. I had volunteered to work the early shift at the local Farmer's Market, assisting a community organization, Raising Rochester, in selling produce grown in raised garden beds to benefit the Rochester Area Neighborhood House. Feeling somewhat apprehensive I decided to drive there. Familiar roads, ideal weather situation, little traffic, I felt ultimately confident in this decision. My vision is such that I am on the cusp of being a legal, but restricted, driver in the state of Michigan. A few months prior I had a lengthy conversation with my ophthalmologist regarding the pros and cons of me driving. According to him, I passed the legal requirements and should attempt to reintroduce driving into my life. Although extremely skeptical, the possibility of increasing my independent mobility was tempting enough to try. I had driven a handful of times in the months following our discussion, mostly supervised, a couple independently, but today's destination, a mere 3.2 miles away marked the furthest distance I had traveled independently since May of 2010.
I got there no problem. Easy peasy and a major confidence booster. Perhaps driving was in my future, maybe we should even look into purchasing a second car so I could continue practicing and increasing my confidence with local trips to stores, the library, friend's houses. I was practically giddy with the excitement of it all.

In the years that had passed since I'd driven with regularity I had reverted to a beginner driver. Actually, that's not quite accurate because I distinctly remember a feeling of invincibility while learning how to drive at 16. This time however, I was cautious, almost overly so. I turned my cell phone to vibrate and kept it stored safely in my purse in the backseat. The radio was off and my hands were firmly placed at 10 and 2. No distractions. I was far more focused than I'd ever been as a teenager. Even in those first few days of driving lessons with my teacher. Age and experience had taught me how dangerous cars could be and I wasn't about to risk making a careless mistake because I was jamming to Pearl Jam on the radio.

In the end, it didn't matter how cautious I was, or how familiar I was with the route home.

Stopping at a four-way stop outside of the Administration Building for Rochester Community Schools, I patiently waited my turn to proceed as a delivery truck made a series of Y turns to back into a driveway on the other side of the intersection. Once the truck had backed in, parked, and the driver had emerged, I decided it was safe to go forth. Within seconds I heard an enormous KERTHUNK which was immediately followed by a BUMP,  and an audible POP.


I was shocked and had no idea what happened. Shakily I pulled to the side of the road and got out to investigate. I had watched enough bicycle safety videos while teaching 3rd grade Health, that I was certain I would find a mangled bicycle and maybe even (GASP!) rider sticking out from the front end of the car.
Thankfully that was not the case.
What I did find was a peninsula curb that created a barrier for street parking. Parking spots that I, myself had parked in dozens of times over the years. I also saw that by driving over this curb, even at the low-speed of 10-15 mph I had popped both tires on the passenger side of my husband's car.

I was beside myself. Shaking and crying I dug my phone out of the backseat and called my husband. By the time he answered I was hysterical, and I am sure for a minute or two he thought I had killed someone by the way I was reacting.

Inconsolable, I sobbed until Josh, Emy, and our dear friend Amanda came to the scene of my misery.
A tow truck was subsequently called, the tires replaced, and the accident was over.
But the damage had been done.
I couldn't stop thinking What If?
What if it had been a person on a bike?
Or a child?
Or a dog?

How could I take the risk of getting behind the wheel of a car again? It's not like I could tell myself, "Well, next time I'll be more careful." I was as careful and cautious as I could be. What it comes down to is I just didn't see it. Not because I was distracted or wasn't looking. I didn't see the curb - only the width of an intersection away, and I didn't, COULDN'T, see it.

I've been thinking about this incident a lot recently. So often I want to test my limits, push my boundaries and try driving again. I acknowledge the fact that many, many drivers makes mistakes - hit curbs, even pops tires and still continue driving. Life is risky. But as much as I want to muster up the courage to keep trying I feel comfort in accepting my limitations. There's maturity and growth that comes with the acceptance.

Side Note: The ophthalmologist who thought I could resume driving, has since done further testing on my actual visual field and determined that it is probably not the safest choice I could make. I had to break our my favorite catchphrase from the early 1990's when he shared that news with me.  Uh... DUH!!!

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