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Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Microstory 1838: Pics or it Didn’t Happen

I’ve been a professional driver for the last fifty years. I built my career on a spotless record, but just because something isn’t on my record, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I don’t want to relive the worst night of my life, but it’s all I can think about right now as I’m riding in the back of this ambulance. Back in the day, driving was a bit of a man’s world. Women weren’t actively discouraged from such jobs, but they weren’t encouraged either. I didn’t have to fight my way into the industry, but I certainly found it rather difficult to relate to my contemporaries. I didn’t socialize very much with the other students while I was learning, and advancing. I focused on being the best driver I could be, and pretty soon, my hard work paid off. I don’t recall exactly how it happened—I think it was more of a gradual thing; a series of events—but I eventually became known as the professional truck driver with no accidents. I didn’t knock down one cone during my training, and I continued this winning streak over the years, which is when it really mattered, of course. I also didn’t make any such mistakes in my personal life. No speeding tickets, no parking tickets, not even a warning. I was a model citizen, and pretty soon, I was being paid to talk to other people about it. I didn’t think that going ten years without issue was that big of a deal, and I don’t think I was the only one. I wasn’t hired to speak at high schools because I was the only one, though, I guess, but because I lucked into it. In the 1980s, I started driving fewer hours so that driver’s ed teachers could book me to speak to their students. They wanted me to inspire them to become like me, and I knew the whole time that it was kind of a waste. Those kids weren’t planning to get in any accidents. It happens, and my talks weren’t going to stop it.

Still, I kept doing it, because it was decent money, and I was starting a family at the time, so staying in place was better for my schedule anyway. Then one night in 1999, it happened. And this is my confession. I was driving back from a night class. It was geared towards adults who had never learned to drive, nor graduated from high school in the first place. So they were all going for their degree and license at the same time. It was so dark outside, as you might imagine, because not only did the students have to work during the day, but many of them had to take public transportation, so such a class necessitated that it be scheduled fairly late. I was tired, I admit, and looking back, I probably should have called a cab. But I wasn’t intoxicated, so I thought I would be okay. It was snowing and sleeting, so visibility was incredibly low. The windshield wipers may as well have been off for as helpful as they were being that night. I was about to just pull over, and call my husband for help when I heard it. I’ll never forget how far my heart dropped down in my chest when that thump whumped against my bumper. I felt it too, and now, every time I hear a similar sound, I nearly jump out of my seat. I couldn’t believe I did it. I was so stupid. It was my job to teach others to not be reckless, and now I would forever be a hypocrite, and a fraud. I got out of the car and inspected the damage. The grill of my car was fine, so I panicked and rationalized not reporting it. I just got back in, and drove off. No one would have to know. It was one little accident, and it wasn’t worth ruining my career. Even after I retired, I kept my secret, because I didn’t want it to destroy my legacy either. My kids are all accident free, and I would be too if I hadn’t knocked into that damn trash can that one fateful night.

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