Raise your hand if you have ever violated a traffic law.
Oh, come on. Be honest.
You know you did a Texas pause at a stop sign in your neighborhood once or twice.
How about a speeding ticket? I bet you have had at least one in your life, right?
These things have been on my mind a lot because in just a few weeks my big kid is turning FIFTEEN – and sooner than later he’ll be taking driver’s ed and learning to navigate the Texas highways.
He’s paying attention to the roads these days. I’m pointing out landmarks and street names to make sure he can find his way home if he gets lost. We’re going over maps to help him gain direction.
I had no idea that I was going to be giving him a REAL LIFE driving lesson yesterday. I got to be the bad example and the good example, all at once.
Here’s what happened:
We had two appointments at our orthodontist scheduled – for both of my teenagers. That means tight teeth and misery, so I usually make the day a little sweeter by offering to include a meal out. They decided on Chicken Minis from Chick-Fil-A.
All that would have been fine, but mama had a hard night with the nursing baby and lost about 2 hours of beauty rest… so we got out of bed with only 30 minutes to spare before we had to leave. Chick-Fil-A was not going to happen unless we skipped showers and didn’t fret over jackets and hairstyles.
After our harried rush to the door with all four kids and a diaper bag, I had my daughter call Chick-Fil-A and order our meal so it would be ready when we got there.
[I bet you didn’t know you could pre-order fast food to make it faster, didya?]
I was driving along and keeping an eye out for the cranky toddler and baby in the visor mirror because they were poking and hitting each other. Nothing like a whining, screaming two year old in the morning to set your nerves on edge.
[He looks happy in that photo, sure… but don’t let that fool you.]
The road was almost empty except for a few cars that passed me up because I wasn’t speeding. I didn’t even notice the light at the edge of town turning red and drove right through it at about 60 miles per hour. No one was in front, beside or behind me that I could see, so I had no idea I had run a red light until I whizzed through and saw a car in my peripheral vision rolling towards me on the left. I suppose the visor was to blame for me not seeing the color of the light changing.
Thankfully, there wasn’t any chance of me hitting the person because they had just started to roll forward and weren’t far in to the intersection yet. I kept on going because there was really no reason for me to stop. The other driver only had to break – even though my son said he caught a glimpse of his face when we passed and he was not happy at being inconvenienced.
I was a ways down the road when this same man came ZOOMING past me on my right (he had to be going well over 80 to catch me at that speed so quickly) and SWERVED in front of my vehicle, coming precariously close to my front bumper. Then he slowed down and put his breaks on.
[Can anyone say “road rage”?]
I wasn’t going to bite. Instead of getting irate like I suspect he was hoping, I slowed and moved to the right to get out from behind him. I am guessing he expected me to try and get in front of him, so he swerved over in to my lane again and slowed further. The speed limit was 65 and I was down to 50 or so.
Realizing that he wasn’t going to let me be, I put the safety of the FOUR children in my car first and slowed to give more bumper space. Even though he was being a jerk, I stayed behind him another seven minutes in to town while he continued to change speeds to irritate me.
Right before I was about to turn right in to the shopping center to get our breakfast, he pulled three lanes over to the left to make a left turn and slowed to make it obvious that he and his wife were looking in to our car. Unable to punish me with road rage, the guy CALLED THE POLICE and reported my red light infraction.
Thinking my run-in with a crazed driver was over, I went about my business and took the kids to eat, see their orthodontist and to piddle around in town for a bit. We had just finished our cheeseburgers at the table when the doorbell rang.
“Is this your vehicle in the driveway, mam?” The officer asked.
Mr. Road Rage had made me sound like a hit and run driver by telling the police I came “this close to T-boning him” (insert exaggeratedly small pincher fingers here). Hardly.
“The guy nearly clipped my mom’s headlight off after he sped past us.” Kaden told him.
After my fifteen year old and I both shared the same story about our scary stalker, he took my driver’s license, went back to his car, and wrote up a report.
He came back to the door and informed me that although he had told the man I had not tried to deny the fact that I ran a red light, he was unwilling to back down on insisting that I get a ticket for it. He told the man that if I wanted, I could report him for reckless driving and he would get a ticket, too.
The guy said he wanted me to get a ticket and didn’t care if I said he was changing lanes unsafely because I was a liar.
“You know, we rarely get anything like this.” The officer said, sighing. He said he would be on his way over to the guy’s house to write him a ticket after he left. I wasn’t sure that really made me feel better.
So there you have it. Hand-delivered, door-to-door tickets and the end of nearly a decade’s worth of a perfect driving record – all for the careful scrutiny of my teenagers, I suppose. There’s a reason for everything.
Here’s the positive I’m taking away from this experience… (I’m serious about counting blessings):
1. We could have been in an accident, and thankfully – praise be to God – we weren’t. It would be a lot different if some or all of us weren’t here any more because of my accidental red light mishap or if I had tried to engage in this man’s road rage.
2. My kids saw me stay cool when someone on the road was clearly out of line and hostile. I hope that they would do the same if the wheel had been in their hands.
3. My kids saw me tell the truth to a police officer – and we even discussed that I would rather tell the truth than get off without a ticket. I told them that I know I have run a few red lights here and there and it is only fair that I pay a ticket if I really ran a red light. I want them to take responsibility for their actions – even when it costs them something.
4. My children will be learning about the process involved with getting a ticket, responding in a timely manner, going to court, and doing what needs to be done to clear your driving record if need be. Maybe I’ll even let my son take defensive driving online with me for a preparation of what is to come. It couldn’t hurt.
I guess we can look forward to an extra courthouse field trip this year (or two – depending on how Mr. Grumpy Pants responds to HIS ticket). Not necessarily something I would have EVER put on the lesson planner, but a valuable set of lessons, none-the-less.