Late Saturday night, my sleepy family was in the sorrowful final hours of our summer vacation as we drove north of Greensboro on 29, southbound and northbound divided by a median and grey steel guardrails. Cars ahead swerved to the right lane, a chain reaction of red brake lights, like a row of dominoes dropping. Our Subaru joined the long line on cue, as traffic slowed to 40 miles per hour. A sea of red.
Except in the left lane. There, coming directly toward us and in the lane everyone else had vacated, were two steady white beams. I’ve seen these moments in movies and on viral YouTube clips, but here we were right at the action. A car cruised, unhurried – maybe 30 miles an hour, in the wrong direction on this congested highway. I gripped the steering wheel and watched incredulously as the turned-around vehicle motored past us, like he was on a Sunday afternoon excursion. Horns blasted him every inch of his traverse, but he tootled on.
I dialed 911, and the dispatcher told me they’d already received a number of calls about the joyrider. I have no idea if the fellow just got mixed up and was trying to find his way to an exit or if he had smoked something with punch, dreamily giddy with his luck at having the entire lane to himself. It could have been a hundred things gone wrong. But I do know that all the fellow needed to do was stop, wait for the traffic to come to a standstill, then make a u-turn. The evening’s drama and danger would have been over.
There are moments where we are given stark reminders that we as a people are careening in the wrong direction, where our ignorance or our foolishness is on high-definition display. Ferguson – and our reactions to it – provides one of these moments. This is the time for us to choose to do the one sane thing. We can stop. We can listen. We can grieve. We can change.
The one thing we can not do is simply drive forward, as if nothing at all has gone wrong. We can not simply tootle on, oblivious.
6 Replies to “One Sane Thing”
I like what you say here because sometimes it’s important to stop and shut up and listen.
Ain’t that the truth, Katie. Ain’t that the truth.
Thanks for a wise word in the midst of chaos. May they be heard not only in Ferguson, but in all our hearts.
It’s also interesting to me that everyone made way for the driver to continue going in the wrong direction. I wonder what would have happened had everyone in the left lane simply stopped (since said driver was not speeding but moseying along slowly), and refused to allow the car to move in the wrong direction any longer. Just a thought.
As we are doing in the case of the murders of young black boys in this country. We clear the lane because to stop and stand forcing those going in the wrong and dangerous direction is scary. Who goes first, who confronts? It’s courageous for someone to take that first step and since many of us are followers, we are all waiting for the leader to emerge. Talk is cheap. If we Do nothing, we allow for the status quo. We the people make change. If we want different, we must DO different.
Susan – I’ve been in a car accident where I was only going said 30-35 miles per hour and combined with the other car’s speed, it still is a pretty powerful collision. So glad you were able to get out of the way Winn! Thanks for sharing your experience and the wake up call.