The stories that make up the People on the Highway posts are all inspired by folks that see on the highway while driving my kids to daycare on weekday mornings. There are days when that commute is my only exposure to the outside world. In the summer months this is proving exceedingly difficult. My wife, a teacher, has been taking the kids to daycare recently. This allows everyone to sleep in a bit, which is awesome, but I do not get to take the kids to school. I barely get to leave the house really. Which is not entirely bad. I just have fewer experiences with other drivers. Stories are in short supply. I would love the ability to just make up these things. I suppose that is a pretty key part of the process, yes, but seeing a face, seeing a car, watching tires bounce against the road lines really pull a character together.
My big driving event this week was coming back from the in-laws place after dinner and I mowed the lawn (poorly). With all the rain rain of late grass grows fast. I pushed an electric mower over eight inch tall grass for an hour. My wife gave me a snickers bar and a coke, when it was done I was tired (it’s time to play Name! That! Reference!)
On our way home there is a four way stop and heavy road work. It is a crossroads that helps show the real person behind the wheel.
Today’s tale is titled: I Can’t Believe You’ve Made it This Far
We are sitting at a four way stop. My wife next to me selecting a better soundtrack to facilitate the sleep of the very tired baby in the back, next to his equally exhausted older brother who has opted to never stop talking. The car to my left arrived before I did, so we watch him drive by in a red Toyota truck lumbering westward to home or pub. It is our turn to go and I just move my foot over the gas pedal, but before applying any pressure I see a most surprising sight.
The car behind the red Toyota is driven by a woman in her mid-twenties, long brown hair, sunglasses hanging from the rear-view mirror, and her phone is sitting on the console between the driver and the passenger seat. I know this because it is the only part of her drive she is paying attention to. The car has no visible damage. It is a silver-ish Honda sedan, completely nondescript and one of thousands in this city alone. I mention the no visible damage because the fact that this car has not been bumped or smashed by another driver is a complete shock to me. The silver Honda is in the middle of the intersection when I try to start my forward progression.
Stop signs are for the plebs that drive Hyundai.
To her credit, I do not think the driver ever once looked up to know that she was very nearly in a mildly inconvenient low speed crash. She was driving down 20th Avenue, a road with two lanes and four traffic lights over twenty miles. She was also driving into the sunset.
Remember, her sunglasses were hanging from the mirror.
She stared at her phone in the console.
Such a brief encounter with someone so oblivious. I wondered who this young lady was. Mid twenties, living in this town driving a new-er cheap car. I surmised her name had to Emilie (spelled with an IE because her parents thought it would keep her unique, but it was the lead paint chip eating that did that). She is a part-time waitress -making way more money than I do- at the Applebee’s off of 10th and studying criminal justice. School is out for the summer so she has time to pick up extra shifts.
Her ten top table at dinner waited twenty minutes at a stretch for refills. Her first couple kept asking for a cup of ranch dressing that never came. She did well with a group just coming back from a day at VBS, but that was only because the customer’s youngest daughter was also named Emily (with a Y, which just weirds out Emilie).
On her way to work she had to cross some railroad tracks near her house. She stopped on the tracks while waiting for a light to change.
Her check engine light came on after she accidentally drove over a step ladder that had fallen from a painter’s van. She has ignored the light and has no idea why her car is drifting slightly to the right when she lets loose the wheel even a little.
In one of her criminal justice courses, she asked if a criminal refused his rights could he still party? She was unsure why everyone laughed.
Yet, somehow she manages to keep going. She is fairly successful, if oblivious. She keeps good friends and whenever she is out with them keeps her phone in her purse. There’s very little consistency in Emilie’s ability to focus and it drives her parents crazy.
She continues her drive westward, not wearing her sunglasses, and will likely have a very pleasant evening while I will fume about the dumb driver that ran a stop sign.
You know what really bugged me about the experience? The car behind Emilie went through the sign too. It was a long night.
Thanks for reading!