It was a beautiful, but hot, August day. Having tested my ability to drive following a summer spent with my right foot in casts and orthoboots, I borrowed my son’s beat-up college car to drive myself to work. Freedom, at last! I always knew that my city had a poor public transportation system, but until I was forced to find alternative transportation, I didn’t realize how bad it was. Unable to bike or to walk, I was forced to rely on others.
At the first stop light, my phone rang. Without any thought, I picked it up and began chatting with a friend. I slowed for a school bus stop but barely noticed when the bus turned right as I turned left. I had been a passenger along this route for months, had memorized nearly every aspect of the scenery as husband, son, mother, or friend transported me to work on a daily basis. There was the neatly maintained red brick home, like all the other neatly maintained homes in the neighborhood, except for a chain link fence surrounding the house on all sides, including barricading the front door. There was the two-story house that had been designed to be in a Tudor style; it’s owners had painted all of the faux wooden “beams” in vivid colors as if it were a Victorian Grand Painted Lady. There was a house with three minivans, one undrivable, in the drive, and a Splash and Play in the front yard. There was the mansion on the north side of the road, seated at a distance from the road at the top of a hill. It backed up to a creek where my friend Carrie and I used to play when we were nine years-olds. Sneaking through the back fence was scary, thrilling, and freeing. Our reward: a large grassy field filled with wildflowers that we thought was unseen from everyone in the world. Lying on the ground, looking up at the clouds, we felt that we were the rulers of the universe.
I knew this road. Knew the houses, knew the hills, knew the hidden drives and the narrow shoulders. I knew this road, just like the main streets to the north and south of it, connecting two main highways and the quickest route to avoid the morning interstate congestion. I knew it as part of my world for decades.
I continued talking on the phone, discussing the current anti-inflams prescribed by my orthopedist with my pharmacist friend. The phone call ended abruptly when I exclaimed — well, you can fill in the blanks!
The one thing about this road I didn’t know was the speed trap; vanquished all summer by heat and humidity, it had reappeared on this, the first day of school.
“Do you know how fast you were going, mam?” the officer asked.
The first response that came to mind: “No, but I know exactly where I am.”
Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle: physics never fails. Not realizing speed limit signs as part of the landscape frequently does.