Archive for February, 2014

The Left Turn Blunder

This column first appeared in the January 2014 issue of Forsyth Family magazine

To celebrate a nephew’s birthday, Garnet and I offered to take him and his brother out for dinner. The four of us plus the two of them made it a two-car operation. The plan was for me to take one of our kids and a nephew in my car and for Garnet to follow in hers with the other kid and nephew.

If we were going back to our house with them, we would have gone straight through the intersection at Silas Creek Parkway. Beforehand, I had told Garnet more than once that, to get to the restaurant, we would be turning left at Silas Creek. After we picked up the boys, in our car, we somehow got off on the topic of boneheaded things I had done behind the wheel in front of Garnet’s dad – and the boys’ grandfather – Tim.

There was the time that I had forgotten that Garnet’s car was parked directly behind mine in front of our house and backed directly into it while Tim was standing there. No damage to either car – just embarrassment for me and amusement for Tim.

And then there was the time that Tim was following me down Burke Mill Road with assorted family members in his car and I turned one intersection before I should have. It proved to be a cul-de-sac so I had no way to hide my mistake by continuing on. As I turned around, I wondered what he would have to say when he stepped out of his car after we arrived at our destination.

About the time I finished those stories, we came to the intersection with Silas Creek. The light was red. When the light turned green, I began executing my left turn only to realize to my dismay that I was turning from the straight-ahead lane. I had utterly spaced out and had been driving as if we were going back to our house.

Thank goodness the driver in the true left turn lane was alert and let me in. He or she was gracious about it, too. No honk or anything. Whatever the person had to say about me in the comfort of his or her own vehicle was well-deserved. (Garnet, who had thought I had changed my mind about how to go to the restaurant, had the good sense to drive straight.)

As I continued down Silas Creek to the restaurant, I felt grateful that my mistake hadn’t resulted in an accident and I remembered some of the drivers I had thought ill of for their driving blunders. It seemed clear that I needed to do penance by giving such drivers the benefit of the doubt. For good measure, I figured, I should probably do my best not to get mad at overtly cloddish driving, such as following too closely, as well.

It’s a given that, when you make a resolution, you will be tested, and, in the days that followed, it seemed as if the percentage of both driving bungles and overt aggressiveness increased significantly. Originally, I had imagined keeping my resolution indefinitely. But, after (more or less) maintaining my equanimity for a couple of weeks, I started thinking, “Surely, there’s no need to slough off such outrageous behavior forever. That’s asking too much of myself.”

A day or two later, I found myself in Walkertown approaching an intersection that had Stop signs for the other street and no Stop signs for the street I was on and. There, right in front of me, someone, without a pause, ran her Stop sign.

It was, without a doubt, an excellent example of driving obliviousness. It felt like a gift. Nothing bad happened. If I could let that go without being irritated, surely, this was the perfect time to say that I had successfully completed my period of penance. I smiled and silently thanked her.