I am riding my motorcycle on a long narrow bridge that passes over the Rappahannock river. This bridge climbs steeply up towards the center at about the mile and a half marker. Like a church steeple over a deep channel where tall boats go under. Wide river, over three miles, heavy winds right down the center. Old bridge, built back before tractor-trailer traffic, no skirt – at all – just a concrete wall right where the yellow line would be.
Just as I approach the tallest section; cannot see over this top, less than a hundred yards of forward visibility - wham! Whoosh!. Some kind of zipper car Daddy bought his little ray of girlish sunshine. Windows wide open, I can see her ponytail bobbing around, cell phone crunched up between her ear and shoulder. Maybe, just old enough to be behind the wheel, just barely.
My life, her own life! Not a consideration. Hasn’t even processed through her super-girl mind. How do you get as old as me? You don’t die when you’re as young as she obviously is. That’s how. Truly, it’s as much a matter of luck, as anything. And anybody who thinks it’s because God loves you and wants you live a long life, or you are, in some fashion, just better than somebody else – well, I think those people are fools. At her apparent age, I was easily as reckless (yeas, stupid) when I was that young and behind the wheel. No, no, I was more stupid.
Far more reckless. It really comes down to not having a clue how quickly shit can happen; how true innocence of calamity can land on your head like a tree bat at a picnic on a warm summer evening. You taking a bite of your hot dog, sip of beer, then you’re running in circles waving your arms around trying to drive off a flying rat. Drop the hot dog on your new floral pattern shirt, beer all over your brand new Patagonia cargo shorts. “boink - Where did that tree come from –!” “Gawddamnit!” “I chipped a tooth!!!”
Or, worse. Being a High School teacher, I have gone to more funerals of young people who never saw 20 years old. Prime of life, prime of health and no longer with us, just due to ordinary bad luck. Tragic to the point that my heart just aches every time I think of it. Too many times. Too many times. It’s not stupidity, it’s not because they weren’t wonderful young people. Not because they ever did anything really wrong or hurt anybody. I don’t believe it was even just lousy karma. Just a matter of standing under the wrong branch under the wrong tree when the crow shits.
However, so much can be avoided by the one principle that has formulated in my own mind as the years have flown by. And that would be, “Think it through.” “When in doubt, calmly think it through.” “Slow down and just think it through.” “It’s better to be late, than dead.” You might get yelled at if you’re late, you might feel a bit humiliated, but if you’re dead you won’t hear or feel anything. You’ll get over being late, you won’t get over being dead.
On one side of that long treacherous bridge is a small southern Virginia town that has … nothing. A pizza parlor, a place that sells fresh caught fish and a pre-paycheck loan office. As I say –nothing. On the other side of that bridge is … a pizza parlor, a place that sells fresh caught fish and a pre-paycheck loan office. Plus a gas station and my Doctor’s office. Which is, for me, the only reason for ever having to cross that bridge. And I really don’t want to get killed on my way to see my Doctor ,,, about a mole that has changed color (or something paranoid like that).
What’s the big rush about getting from … basically nowhere, to … basically nowhere? It definetly ain’t worth killing somebody or dying to get there … nowhere.
Yo, happy to see you.
Visit me at http://dalepeterson.us