When I got my driver’s license — at sixteen and a half years old, on the very day I was eligible — I already had a car. It was also sixteen and a half years old and cost all of $600.00. It was, what my dad called, “a boat.” These many years later, I would specify and reclassify it as a “pontoon boat” as it was big and squarish with a convertible top.
That car was awesome. And in typical reckless teenage fashion, I drove it like a rental.
It looked sort of like this, but with a “drop top” and lots of rust:
One time, I drove it over a speed bump, and the exhaust tore off, clean. It waited — hot and ugly on the side of the road — for me to collect it.
In my defense, that “speed bump” was more of a “speed peak.” Later I would have to admit — after a grilling by my father — that I might have been driving a little over the speed limit. (I think it was 15 mph; I might have been going 40.)
But I had places to go and people to see — stuff to get done. There wasn’t any time to go gingerly on the way.
I had a destination.
You’d think my dad would have taken the opportunity to use this as a “teaching moment.” You know, educate me using the analogy about rushing when care and precaution should be applied. Maybe share an anecdote from his experience about “the time I opted for the quick and easy which resulted in more hassle than if I’d just gone about it the thoughtful and proper way.”
(Hell, he probably did both of those things, and I was more concerned about when the muffler would be reattached to pay careful attention to his wise words.)
I have regular occasion to see that speed bump from 1987. (Not literally, but figurative.)
Come to think of it: I see it all the time.
Time and time again I find myself looking at an obstruction to my “end goal.” I stare it down — I sometimes even trash talk it — and then, I hurdle over it.
My frequent result: a figurative, torn-off exhaust.
Today, it’s a pulled muscle in my right foot from short-cutting proper “form” in yesterday’s yoga practice. (The pain is making me question whether I’m going to go today for my 90-minutes worth of hot yoga. I am going to go, and I intend to pretend it’s not bothering me. Try that “mind over matter” thing some people think obviates or disguises pain.)
A couple of days ago, it was an entire “writing day” staring at a screen wondering why my story had stalled. (It stalled because the day before that I’d slapped some words down which didn’t hold together well. I had to “fix” that mess before putting in a decent “writing day” yesterday.)
And tomorrow (or the next day or the day after that), there will be some other something which I spy in the roadway which I figure I can successfully launch over if I’m “just going fast enough.”
And I know I run the risk of having to “pull over” and “gather up the scattered pieces” to make my vehicle whole again.
A bad experience is supposed to teach us how to get it “right” the next time. I am often heard telling my children, “If it’s worth doing once, it’s worth doing right.”
I wonder why, after close to thirty years since I put my exhaust into the back seat of that car, I have a hard time adopting this method on getting things done.
Maybe I’m a fool, or maybe, I play the odds.
Sometimes, I make it over that speed bump – exhaust intact — watching the boring road disappearing behind me in my rear view.
So I suppose that while I’m still willing to wind the tachometer up into the red-zone, I’ll probably keep at it. What’s the worst that can happen?