Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Lead Foot

True confession time: I have a lead foot.

I drive fast. Not as fast as Winston Wolfe (“It’s thirty minutes away. I’ll be there in ten.”), but consistently fast. While I’m much better about it than I used to be–I no longer find myself doing 80 on the interstate, for example, at least not on purpose, and I’m very good about residential areas–I tend to find my own speed on the roads, which is usually 5, sometimes 10 miles per hour over the posted speed. Despite my tendency to speed, I consider myself a good driver, and a careful one. I can hear some of you arguing that I can’t be a good driver if I’m speeding. Note, however, I do not do 60 in a 30 zone, I do not have to slam on the brakes every time I come to a stop sign or a red light, passengers are not thrown left and right when I turn. I don’t tailgate or pass with abandon or weave in and out of traffic like I’m running the Daytona 500. I am careful–I merely like to drive at a speed I’m comfortable with, and I do pay attention to traffic and weather conditions, etc. So, if you’re going to drop a comment bomb on me about it, save it. This post isn’t really about speeding, anyway.

My big problem comes when I get stuck behind a slow driver. I grip the wheel, sit up straighter, and get rather agitated. I grumble a lot, and say things like, “Engage hover car mode…NOW!” or “Activate ground-to-ground missiles.” I imagine my car zooming through the fireball (remarkably undamaged) like some action hero stunt, then fall back to a safe driving distance and continue to gripe. The person doesn’t even have to be going super-slow–I want the option to travel at the speed I want, when I want. It’s selfish, I know, but there it is.

Though I’m not entirely cured of this habit, I’ve gotten much better about this over the years, in a large part because of certain experiences I’ve had. In the not-too-distant past I traveled quite regularly with rather unusual cargo. On any given day I might be driving with a bunch of boxes in the back of my van, and in those boxes were birds of prey: a hawk, an owl or too, and I think most of you have seen pictures of Morty, the turkey vulture. Some days maybe I didn’t have birds, maybe I had turtles, frogs and snakes. Toughest of all were the days I had coolers full of marine invertebrates like horseshoe crabs, snails and sea stars. On those days I would drive gingerly, cringing at every bump in the road, babying the van around every corner, slowing well before stop signs. I hate the sound of a bird losing its balance. Birds use their wings for balance, and when a bird flexes its wings inside a box, it could break a feather or injure itself. And I was terrified one of my coolers would tip over and send sea water and snails spilling all over my van. It kept me extra careful, kept me at reasonable speed, and sometimes I would see someone close behind my and think, “Yeah, back off, buddy, I’m carrying live animals here.”

That experience has definitely helped me. Despite my fantasies about ground-to-ground missiles, when I find myself stuck behind someone doing 30 in a 45 mph zone I ask myself: what precious cargo is this person carrying with them? Or perhaps they have a mechanical problem with their car and they’re taking it up to the mechanic’s now, but they have to be really careful. Maybe they’re sick and on their way to the hospital. Probably it’s nothing like that. Probably, they’re just some tourist gawking at cows, trying to figure out if they’re on the right road or not, fearing the dreaded appearance of a New York cop, or maybe they’re just not paying attention. The point is, I don’t know. I can’t know.

And that brings me around to my real point. The death of Robin Williams by apparent suicide has brought out a lot of commentary from a lot of people. Most of what I have seen have been expressions of shock and loss, and outpourings of sympathy for his family. It’s also brought out its share of idiots who call him a coward, or call him weak and selfish. The thing is, we really don’t know what he was driving around with, we don’t know what kind of things were rattling around in his trunk. Slow down and back off.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

8 Responses

  1. People have always had opinions. Twitter and Facebook have just made it easier for them to be obnoxious about it. And of course, give them the ability to share their opinion to anyone who will "listen."

    I try to keep my opinions to myself (or at least within my family), especially when I'm behind that slow jack a$$ who has to brake at every stinkin' intersection! But I'll try and remember they might be transporting a crateful of spiders or something, because I sure as heck don't want that to get loose! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh, by the way. It was favorite vacation SPOT. Not sport. Just wanted to clear that up! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Lovely analogy. Suicide is a very real part of my life since my first husband (bipolar) committed it when our children were very young. My aunt happened to call me right after the coroner's office had left. She told me that Pat would be going to hell. I told her I couldn't believe that because what kind of hell must a person be living through for suicide ever to look like the best option. Suicide has terrible collateral damage to the people who loved the person who died, but when you're in the throes of that kind of pain, it's hard to think about anything but yourself.

    What I have no pity for are those people who decide to kill their children too, or stage their death so a spouse wakes in the morning to a dead body in their bed.

  3. Got myself some chills at your last paragraph. It's so true. I've worked with far too many kids who've had serious suicidal thoughts or made suicide attempts and the ridiculous and hurtful things people can say to them is unimaginable. We need to have a lot more empathy as a species.

  4. We never know for sure what's going on inside of other people. That's why a little kindness is always a good default option. ๐Ÿ™‚

    P.S. I'm that irritating driver who'll slow down to go the speed limit on purpose if I know I have a speeding tailgater behind me. ๐Ÿ˜€

  5. You've just described 90% of the drivers in Egypt. Each one drives like he owns the road and the other drivers were put there just to annoy him. I've given up chastizing my husband for speeding, tailgating, swerving, and yelling – they all do it. Very clever metaphor about RW's death, and good reminder not to judge (or be an idiot on social media – though I think that ship sailed long ago).

  6. Stacy–DOH! Basic reading fail! I recall posting a picture of a large spider here that drew all kinds of negative feedback. People may actually like spiders less than snakes. And I'm getting to the point where I don't think I'll read comments attached to news articles anymore–they just make me too angry.

    Donna-what an absolutely horrible thing for your aunt to say, and a perfect response from you. I hope it made her rethink things, but I suspect not.

    Thank you, Jemi. Yes, we do.

    L.G.–That was YOU??? Though I am not a tailgater. I fall back to safe distance, but I'm never happy about it. Kindness is indeed the best default option.

    Lexa–Remind me never to drive in Egypt. Thank you for your comments.

  7. Good connection, Jeff! I'm afraid I do the same thing as LG, though. When people get on my bumper, especially in my neighborhood, I drive 20 mphโ€”until they try to pass me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for Updates

For announcements, alerts and special offers, subscribe to our emails.ย  Please note, you will have to confirm your subscription through an email to the address you provide.

Follow Jeff O'Handley

Jeff O'Handley ยฉ2024 - All Rights Reserved.