I used to speed. Not dangerously but faster than the speed limit. First of all I never really looked at my spedometer and secondly, I had the notion that speed limits where sort of just…nice but optional. Every once in a while I was conscious that I had surprisingly never made it a habit to look at my spedometer or go below 35 miles an hour but then I would shrug it off. I wasnt a dare-devil speeder that endangers lives. That’s who the cops go after. I figured most normal citizens drive the way I do otherwise I would have gotten a ticket by now.
My attitude seeped into my job. When I became a school bus driver, I prided myself on getting the kids to school on time and maybe even some minutes before the bell. There was always a line-up of buses in front of the school entrance. If your bus was at the end of that line, the kids inevitably arrived later than their counterparts and grumbled that they would miss First Bell. Well, my kids would not miss first bell! In order to do this I had to drive at a…well, let’s just call it a “quick pace”.
Once when I was driving my bus route on a busy back road, I caught sight of some parents at the end of a driveway most likely waiting for another school bus. A dad motioned me with his hands to slow down. Was he talking to me? What a grump! Some people just love to complain!
Another time the director of transportation of the school called me. Apparently somebody in one of the neighborhoods where I made a stop called to complain about my speed. The director was very kind and gently relayed the news to me but, I was stung. I wasn’t going THAT fast. What kind of namby pamby goes out of her way to write down a bus number, look up the school in the directory and complain about a school bus driver? Somebody with no time on their hands, that’s for sure. We bus drivers are the good guys. We have schedules to adhere to. We get kids to school before First Bell. Some people!
Some family and friends were tickled by my new job as a bus driver and I would often get reports from people who spotted me. My brother-in-law had spotted a yellow school bus, he once told me. The bus was coming from the opposite direction. He was making a left and figured he had plenty of time to turn before the bus approached him. He started to turn slightly and halted. He had been mistaken. There was definitely no window of opportunity to make a left (unless he wanted to die). He glanced up as the bus whizzed by and he saw what he described as a driver on a mission, shoulders hunched forward and vision straight ahead. Then he realized that driver was me.
After this story was relayed to me I started wondering if maybe I did have a problem. Worse, I wondered if I had put my students’ lives in danger by my OCD tendency to have the kids to school no later than 8:05. I was now aware and a seed was planted. I started slowing down a but not totally.But at that time, I was not fully cured.
My career took a different turn (pun intended) and I no longer drive a bus but kept my CDL current. Last year I was driving down main street on my way to morning mass. Main Street is lined with pesky annoying 25 MPH signs. I have lived in this town for over twleve years and never once been stopped for going a little faster than the exaggeratedly-slow request of 25 MPH. I didn’t have to rationalize at all. I simply didn’t pay attention to my spedometer and drove at a comfortable speed. My husband’s car did something strange then. Apparently some fancy cars actually talk to you when there is an engine problem or low tire pressue. The car was warning me of low tire pressure and possibly a flat tire. Technology is amazing. My attention was devoted to the warning displayed on the dashboard screen when suddenly flashing lights in my rearview mirror stole my attention. Some poor guy was being pulled over. Wait, that cop was following me! I was being pulled over. I couldn’t believe it.
When the police officer asked for the registration cards I was such a nervous mess that I didn’t know where my husband kept his information. The cop told me, on a hunch, to look in the glove compartment. There they were. I tried not to cry. Some friend you are, I argued internally with God. Is this the way you treat somebody who is heading to mass? The cop took my license and turned it over. You drive a bus, he asked. Yes, I told him, hoping this would show him what a good citizen I am. It was a white lie. I didnt currently drive a bus, but I could if I was asked to. I mean, people like me dont get speeding tickets. Maybe the fancy car made him think I was stuck-up and had ideas that I was above the law but now that he saw my devotion to the children of the world by being a bus driver, he would go easy on me. I didn’t get out of a 90 dollar ticket but the police man showed me some mercy and I didnt get any points due to my CDL. Of course, I wasn’t gratfeul at that moment until a coworker explained to me that it could have been much worse and how unsual it is to not get points for speeding 20 miles over the speed limit.
I drove to mass even though I was late. All the while I cried. My pride was hurt. My feelings were hurt. My ego was bruised. But I will say this, after that day I was cured. I now check my spedometer often and I could tell you the speed limit on most streets in my hood. Ok, I am not sinless and might go 20 MPH when it says 15 but I keep it real. But being “cured” of my need for speed is more than just having a fear of law enoforcement. Something sunk in and I marvel at how naive I was to think that my car was always under my complete control. What if i was going 35 MPH in a neighborhood and a kid darted out in front of me? What if had slammed into my brother-in-law that day and killed him? It’s as though God gently and gradually impressed upon me something important and was gracious enough not to let me hurt anybody during the learning process. That’s just His way.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Gisondi