Clopens Kill (or come close)

Did you know that when you hit speed limit signs with your car they fall like dominos?

One time I ran over a speed limit sign. I’m pretty sure not reporting that is illegal and classified as a “hit and run”. And while that sounds bad, it was better than the other option I had that morning.

I had just left my house after getting home after my inhumane clopen shift. For my friends who’ve never left the comforts of aristocracy and worked down in the dregs of hourly customer service, a “clopen” is what we peasants call those horrific shifts where we have to open the morning after working a closing shift. (Employers, please stop doing this if you want safe roads in your city)

Anyway, I was driving just after a heavy rain shower, half-asleep due to lots of work and a lack of sleep. You may think, “Why are you driving under those conditions?” In my defense, I was only driving about a half a mile to a local coffee shop, so I didn’t really think it would be a problem to steer a 2,000 lb. metal projectile down a slick road while being drunk and high with exhaustion.

Of course, I wasn’t thinking about any of this at the time anyway because I wasn’t thinking much at all as I accelerated faster and faster down a wet, two-lane, neighborhood road. Because I was accelerating at such a rate, it may surprise you that there was a boy (yes, a child) puttering along in a moped in front of me.

It was definitely a surprise to me.

Not only was he puttering along, but he was actually slowing down. I was not.

Seeing a problem with this, I crushed the brake pedal into the floorboard so hard I was afraid my foot was gonna punch through the metal and hit the pavement. As you know, brakes don’t work well on wet roads. Several things stopped moving in that moment. Namely my tires and my heart.

But there was one thing that didn’t seem to slow down at all: my car.

You know how when you’re trying to cook something, and you realize you’re missing a vital ingredient so you have to get creative and change your plans? Like when you’re trying to make buttermilk pancakes but you have no buttermilk so you have to curdle your own milk with lemon juice? It’s kind of annoying and puts a kink in your mood.

That’s kind of how I felt. It was like, “Okay… I never expected to kill a child in my lifetime, but I’ll just have to rearrange things and lower my expectations of myself.”

A bunch of questions flooded into my mind in seconds. Questions like, “Would I go to prison for manslaughter? How does that work? What’s prison like? Do they have good food?”

Like when you are missing an ingredient and you have to be open to learning something new about baking, my mind was prepared to learn all kinds of new and exciting information about our legal system.

But at just the last minute, my tires caught traction. I didn’t realize it up until this point, but I had turned my steering wheel hard to the right. When my tires finally gripped the road again, my car was catapulted into the ditch on the right side between the road and the railroad tracks.

I somehow straightened up, and I was then engaging in some intense off-road action in my tan 1996 Toyota Corolla.

Empty cups went flying, papers slid and fluttered, my little tree slapped the windshield, change bounced to and fro sparkling in the sunlight… It was all very dramatic as I mowed down small trees, bushes, and tall grass.

I couldn’t really see straight, but what I could see was that I was heading straight for a sign that read, “Speed Limit 25 MPH”. I was not within that limit, nor was I on the road.

Once again I smashed the brake pedal down with all the strength my quad and hamstring could muster.

Or should I say, what I THOUGHT was my brake pedal?

In my panic, coupled with my poor mental condition, I’d hit the gas instead of the brakes. Instead of slowing, I became a missile, rocketing toward the speed limit sign.

Thankfully, I was no longer worried about killing a child.

Instead I was prepared to have my head cut in half and windshield shattered by a piece of metal. At least I wouldn’t be the one dealing with all the legal stuff in this other inconvenient and new version of my life.

Anyway, did you know that when you hit speed limit signs with your car, they fall like dominos? I didn’t either, but that’s something I learned that day.

My car came to a stop several yards past the flattened sign. Through my window I saw a family grilling in their front yard across the street. Except they weren’t grilling or throwing footballs or talking anymore, they were only standing still and staring at me.

After a pause, a woman mouthed, “ARE YOU OKAY?!”

I rolled my window down with a trembling hand, “I’m fine! Thanks!”

I pulled back onto the road and proceeded to my destination as if nothing happened.

I don’t believe that sign was ever repaired the entire time I lived in that town. Sometimes I wonder if it’s still lying in the grass.

It’s kind of cool to know that you’ve left your mark on a place. It would be cooler if my mark had been something constructive instead of a scar caused by stupidity and recklessness. But I’ll take what I can get.