On long highway drives, John always finds some crazy driver going too fast and follows him. His theory is that any police cruiser trolling for speeders will discover that guy first and let him sail right past. He hasn't been pulled over for speeding in a really long time and even then it was because he really had to go, so it seems to work.
Thing is, when I'm the one driving, I'm the lunatic everyone wants to follow.
I'm not a good driver. There, I've said it. It goes along with the ADD, I'm sure, and though I'm ashamed, you're hard pressed to find me actually paying attention to what I'm doing behind the wheel.
Last January, late for a meeting with a client, I was driving along the 417, happy as a clam. I had a yogurt container in one hand, the music up and a strong desire to sneeze. Do you see where this is going? With everything going on, I noticed I had swerved a bit and turned my wheel to, you know, get back into my own lane. I overcompensated a bit and ended up clear in the other lane. I yelped a bit, gave myself shit in my head and vowed to pay attention before I caused an accident.
Thirty-odd seconds later I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed a car was right up on my bumper. I got pissed so I sped up a bit, but the guy did not lay off. I sped up some more and noticed something. "Hey, there's lights on that car and they're flashing!"
That's when I was smacked in the face like the dipstick I am.
Of course it was a police officer. Not only did he have his lights on, the siren was going - loud.
You're not going to believe me, but I've never been pulled over on a highway before and I had no idea what the protocol was. Do you pull over to the side of the road? Get off at the next exit? What is safest? At some point a policeman was going to be exiting his vehicle and I didn't want to get him hurt, so I figured I would make my way off the Queensway.
Absolutely the wrong move. Apparantly you're supposed to pull the hell over wherever you can.
As I made my way toward the Pinecrest Avenue exit, the police cruiser sped in front of me, cutting me off and basically forcing me to a stop right at the narrow shoulder of the busy highway.
"Shit!" He meant business.
He backed up behind me, parked and got out of his cruiser - with his gun. He ambled up the behind my truck and peered in the back window with a flashlight. At this point I was sweating and watching him in my side-view mirror. He was making his way up the side of the truck, checking each window until finally he saw my doe-in-the-headlight eyes peering out from my window.
Shaking his head, he put the gun away and tapped on my window with the flashlight. I opened it and said what any normal, but slightly idiotic driver would say;
"What are you doing?" the policeman asked with a bit of indignation.
Remembering that John had always told me to never, ever let on that you had done anything wrong, I said "Ummmm... driving. I'm going to a meeting."
"Do you know that you ended up halfway in two lanes twice before you moved back in? AND, you were going at least 120km/hr." The speeding was news to me, but the swerving was right.
"I'm sorry, Officer. So sorry. I was sneezing and I'm sorry." I think I was crying at that point.
"Sorry? You could have been hurt of hurt someone. Let me see your license and registration please."
I started to sweat just a bit more. I never know where that stuff is and I was reasonably sure this guy didn't want to hear about me leaving it at home, but knowing exactly where it might be. I searched the console and because God loved me just a little bit that day, it was right where it belonged.
I handed it over to him, like the responsible driver I am (you know, the kind who knows where her registration is) and put my hands in my lap.
Without a word, he walked away. Leaving me to sit and cry. What else could I do? Not only had I almost killed myself, but I had had a gun pulled on my truck. I'm sure he had no idea who was behind the wheel, but how many Suburban driving soccer Moms are out there with guns and ammo in their backseats speeding on the highway?
He came back and the speech began; "You know, you're 31 years old and healthy. Women your age don't die from cancer or heart attacks, they die in car crashes because they're not paying attention. This is totally preventative. Do you have children?"
"Yes." I squeaked. "Four."
He looked like he was going to pass out. "Four?! What if something happened to you. Or to them. What would you do?"
All I could do was shake my head and apologize. I was getting a bit pissed off at his little lecture and felt a bit like a scolded child, but I knew that was because he was right. I had acted stupidly and I knew it.
He let me off with a warning and I was on my way. I was shaking, but I was on my way.
I want to tell you I try to do better, but most of the time, I don't. I still look back at the kids instead of just looking in the rearview mirror or telling them to wait. I still change the CD while talking on my cellphone and planning my day. It's so wrong, and I know it.
Tonight though, on my way home from another meeting, I was almost hit when an oncoming car made it's way across the centre line. The other driver noticed just at the last second that he was headed right for me and we both swerved. He ended up fine, still in his lane, in tact and on his way. I ended up on the side of the road, almost in a ditch and with a heart pounding so fast, I thought it might flip out my chest.
I can't control what other cars on the road do when they drive, but I can control me and my vehicle. The look on the other driver's face was enough to remind me why that officer was right. The look of "Holy shit. I'm about to really hurt another person!". I don't ever want to hurt someone, myself included, so I'm going to listen to the slightly righteous cop and try to pay better attention.
There's just too much to lose.