Speed 20-16: Re­flec­tions on Speed

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Harold Wal­ters Harold Wal­ters lives Hap­pily Ever Af­ter in Dunville, in the only Cana­dian prov­ince with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at gh­wal­ters663@gmail.com.

In an ear­lier cen­tury, in a dif­fer­ent bay, when I was a bay-boy sprout, my fam­ily didn’t own a car.

The Mer­chant drove a Pon­tiac with an In­dian head on the bon­net, a car that caused bay-boys to dream of wealth. And a cou­ple of un­cles owned In­ter­na­tional pick-up trucks.

Some­times on a sum­mer Sun­day the un­cles would load their trucks with fam­ily and mo­tor off on an ex­cur­sion to… oh, Trin­ity or Bon­av­ista, maybe. Any­one un­able to stog into the cab piled into the backs of the re­spec­tive trucks, un­cles mag­i­cally ma­nip­u­lated clutches and gear shifts and away we went, young­sters cling­ing to the trucks’ wooden frames like young pri­mates.

Af­ter a long ex­haust­ing, gem­dandy day — and pos­si­bly a punc­tured tire or two — all hands re­turned home and pro­nounced the day an ad­ven­tur­ous one well worth the road dust and weary bones.

“Harry, my nos­tal­gic love,” says Dear­est Duck, “pin­ing for the past again?”

“Nay, my Duck,” say I, “I’m sim­ply set­ting the stage, paint- ing the back­drop, so to speak.”

“Ah,” says Dear­est Duck, knuck­ling my nog­gin. To con­tinue… My fa­ther didn’t own a car un­til af­ter he shifted our fam­ily to a for­eign prov­ince where he bought a used 1950-some­thing Chevro­let be­fore he even learned to drive. A friend backed it into our drive­way arse on to a sec­tion of base­ment wall show­ing above ground.

Need­less to say, I was thrill un­til…

…well, un­til Pappy sat be­hind the wheel for his first prac­tice ses­sion while I watched from the front step.

Af­ter wig-wag­ging the steer­ing wheel and shift­ing his shoul­ders a time or two, Pappy hauled on the gear shift and — as he did ev­ery­thing — as­sertively stomped on the gas.

Quicker than Granny caught the weasel, the car hurled it­self arse-fore­most against the base­ment wall.

P’raps Pappy said some bad words.

Climb­ing from the front seat, Pappy ex­am­ined the car’s rum­pled rear-end and said, “Come here Harry, my son.”

Lodg­ing his arm across my shoul­der, Pappy said, “See that?” Of course, I saw that. “Keep in mind,” Pappy said, “one se­cond of stund­ness in a car is dan­ger­ous.”

Then he smacked me lov­ingly on the back of my head. Punc­tu­a­tion, I s’pose, eh b’ys? “Harry,” says Dear­est Duck, “that back­drop nearly painted?” “In­deed, my Duck.” A life­time has passed since Pappy learned to drive and Daddy’s Boy is now a full-grown old codger. “Harry, my aged honey…” “It’s true, my Duck, I’m an old codger and I’m shit-baked to drive on the high­ways here in the Ball Room.” “Harry!” There are those who would say, “You’re an old codger, so stay off the roads if you can’t keep up.” Keep up? Con­sid­er­ing the speeds at which some folks drive, I’d need a ve­hi­cle ca­pa­ble of warp-over­drive.

Where are so many speed­sters go­ing at MACH-1? Costco? The Mall? Some­times Dear­est Duck and I are mo­tor­ing along on our way to the Ten­sion Tamer Tea Room or Farm­ers’ Mar­ket, chit-chat­ting com­fort­ably with the Cruise Con­trol set at 105 kms — Yes, I dare to speed a tad reck­lessly my­self at times — and some Ya­hoo in a chrome-plated pickup truck zooms past us as if were hitched to a stump.

While speed is a fac­tor that some­times leads to high­way deaths, there is a newer prob­lem that fright­ens me and causes re­cur­ring ce­ment­ing of my bow­els.

Some driv­ers are asleep at the wheel.

(Hey, there’s a band with that name id­den it, b’ys?)

Those driv­ers are asleep at the wheel be­cause they work long hours and com­mute to and from their dis­tant job­sites.

I’ve met some of those driv­ers and they’ve con­fessed to nod­ding off…

“Just for a se­cond and I woke up when the fender scraped the guardrail. Luck­ily my foot fell off the gas pedal, eh b’y?”

I’ve wit­nessed — truly — the re­sult of a young man fall­ing asleep and his foot jam­ming the ac­cel­er­a­tor to the mat…

…and his car hurtling to­wards me un­til it veered off the shoul­der, slammed into a pole, flipped end over end air bound and pitched fac­ing back­wards in an alder thicket.

Luck­ily — and un­be­liev­ably — the young, sleepy driver crawled out of his wrecked car ap­par­ently none the worse for his ac­ci­dent.

Lis­ten, one could load up a hard drive scrib­bling about high­way hor­rors, so while re­call­ing some of your own fright­en­ing adren­a­line floods re­mem­ber…

…the high­way is a dan­ger­ous place where ter­ri­ble things can hap­pen — p’raps to me; maybe to you.

Thank you for read­ing. Be safe. Be mind­ful in traf­fic.

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