Commentary - Close call brings new definition of freedom
By: Sharon Ryan
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 11, 2012 06:00 am
I do it. Nearly everyone I know does it. Grandmas and grandpas do it too. You know what I’m talking about . . . ripping through city streets at excessive speeds once in awhile.
It’s become a bit of an art form with me. I know where all the photo radars are hiding. I can sense where the RCMP is staked out. I know how to hug a corner and then cut loose at just the right moment to feel the full sensation of my Z4 shifting perfectly in time to my favourite music. When I bought this car, the BMW salesperson told me the speakers were built for volume, so if you don’t turn them up, you’re not enjoying the full potential of the superb equipment.
I feel the same way about my driving habits too. Quick and smooth shifts just when the tachometer reaches 2,000 rpms really tests the brilliant engineering of the vehicle. Time that with the natural curvature of the road and the rhythms of music and you have an empowering ride that makes you feel fearless and free, like you’re flying.
Nothing can spoil those days. I worked hard for my very expensive Boxster, and I love to rip it through our city streets especially if I’m having a particularly good day like the one I had last week when, after receiving some most excellent news, I jumped into my Italian Blue sports car, hit the top-down button, yanked up the volume of my favourite CD, and slowly backed out of my driveway ready to launch my baby quickly from first to second gear.
The driving conditions could not have been more perfect and my mood more upbeat. Once again, I felt like the free woman that I am, invincible and fearless, that is until I began my descent down the sloping hill of my own street. With the sun shining directly in my eyes and my concentration on which coffee shop I should go to for my latté, I prepared myself for the ever so quick shift from first to second gear when something barely caught my attention.
At just the moment when I was preparing to test yet again the limits of my car, a five-year-old boy sitting on his skateboard came rolling down the centre of the street. I barely noticed him but for the sound of his sweet voice as he waved at me and said, “I love your car, lady.” It was my neighbour’s grandson.
At that moment, I slammed on my brakes, narrowly missing driving over him and his three little friends following directly behind him. In the panic of that moment, my entire perspective changed on what it means to be a free woman.
Freedom is not having the resources to do whatever I want but the wisdom to know how to enjoy those benefits without harming others, especially vulnerable people like summer-tanned, five-year-old boys whose only mission is to let drivers know that they think their cars are cool.
And in that same moment, I realized that I am not fearless after all even though I’ve successfully survived in at least two industries dominated by arrogant self-serving people who will stop at nothing to squash the competition. That day a new fear was born in me – a fear of harming vulnerable people, especially children, with thoughtless and careless actions.
Now when I get in my car I have a new routine: I put the key in the ignition and rather than fiddle excessively with the plethora of CDs laying on my seat, I say a prayer asking God to give me the full attention to prevent me from harming anyone on the road today.
Now I applaud rather than curse photo radar and congratulate the RCMP for every radar stop they have because there are people out there who think they’re too smart for their own good. I know them. Maybe you know some of them too. Maybe one of them is you.
Sharon Ryan is a resident of St. Albert and teaches ethics for UCLA Extension.