The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The sign that says 25 mph

It's a straight shot from the center of town to my neighborhood; one and a half miles straight down a street that never so much as curves. The speed limit is 25.

I didn't even realize that the speed limit on that street was 25 until I'd lived off of it for over a year. I was pulled over one night on my way home from work, and I honestly couldn't figure out why. I had been going somewhere around 30-35, which seemed about right for a reasonably main artery in a suburban area. When the police officer told me that the speed limit was 25, I was genuinely shocked. "I never would have guessed that," I told her without a hint of artifice. "Is it posted anywhere?" Wordlessly, she turned to shine her flashlight on the sign standing almost directly across the road from where she'd pulled me over. 25. I don't know when I've ever felt stupider. "Don't worry," she laughed as I turned six shades of red. "You won't forget again." She sent me on my way without a ticket, and I vowed to keep to the speed limit from that day forward.

I really did try. I really do continue to try. I think about the speed limit each and every time I drive on that road (which, since it is the only route out of my neighborhood, I do multiple times each day). I want people to drive slowly past my house, and I owe it to my neighbors to do the same. It's socially responsible to keep our streets and our children safe by driving slowly. I really and truly do believe this. But have you ever tried to go 25 miles an hour down a straight road for over a mile? I. simply. cannot. do. it. Even when I do my very, very best to crawl down that road at a sedate pace, somewhere along the way, I look down at my speedometer and realize that I am well into the 30s. If the road turned somewhere or had a stop sign or something, I tell myself, then I would be able to slow down. If you left the house earlier and weren't always in such a rush, the nagging little voice in the back of my head replies, then you would be able to slow down. Both are valid points. But regardless of the real reason for my lead foot, it is clearly just not in my nature to drive 25 for any extended length of time. I almost never manage to do it for more than a block or two.

Yesterday, I actually did slow down to 25 on my way down that street, however. The bright lights of an ambulance, a fire truck and several police cars had caught Evan's attention and I eased off the gas a bit to let him admire all of those rescue vehicles (and, truth be told, to do a little bit of rubber necking myself). And there, on the lawn of a red house less than a quarter mile from my own, was a crumpled mini van. A white sheeted body was being carried into the waiting ambulance as we passed. "How could that have even happened there?" Paul asked me when I described the scene to him later. "Probably someone just going too fast," I mumbled guiltily.

I slowed down again when I passed that red house again today, remembering the scene from the day before. There's time to notice details around you when you're only going 25, and I couldn't miss the fact that the tree standing in that front yard is now damaged and deeply scarred from yesterday's impact. I knew in that moment that this tree was going to do a far better job of reminding me to keep my speed down than the sign that a police officer had highlighted for me five years ago ever has.

"Are we ever going to get home?" Julia whined as we obeyed the speed limit and slowly crawled toward our block. "Why are we going so slow?" I smiled as I kept an eye on my speedometer. 25 mph is just too damn slow for a street like that one; even my 4 year old can recognize that. But if driving 25 is going to keep my car from ending up on someone's front lawn, then I'm going to redouble my efforts to make sure that's just what I do.


At 4:07 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Oh, no, how very sad. I know the feeling - both the "I can't drive this slow!" and then the "This seems way too fast, now", after things become too real. Funny how it's all about perspective. The tree, and your thoughts, are a wonderful way to honor a life though, as sad as it is.

At 4:32 PM, Blogger Liesl said...

We have a street like that in our neighborhood, and I used to speed on it. Inadvertently, like you say, since 25 seems so slow!

Then Kevin's uncle was in an accident on an otherwise quiet street in Florida. That was in November, and he's still hospitalized.

I've been quite observant of speed limits since then. It's a hard lesson to learn; this everyday activity of driving is so dangerous sometimes.

At 6:27 PM, Blogger Rosemary said...

What scares the heck out of me is little kids and how quickly they can run out from between cars. A friend of the family hit an 8 year old. The child died. The friend will never ever be the same.

At 12:40 AM, Anonymous chelle said...

hehe...I enjoyed your story about the sign...I so would have doen the same thing!!! Nice that the police officer was so kind as to let you off!

It is hard to take it easy at times, I just think of my toddler running out and I slow down!
here via Crazy Hip Blogging Mamas! Enjoyed your blog a lot!

At 5:30 PM, Blogger Steph said...

So today as we were on our way to a friend's house, I thought of you and this post as I sped down the street with a 25 mph speed limit. In my defense, it was the long entry to the neighborhood where no kids would be playing, but nevertheless, your post gave me pause and I slowed down to a crawl for the remainder of the road.

At 2:29 AM, Blogger Gretchen C. said...

Oh my. I can't say much because I am one of those dorks who always goes 25 in a 25 zone -- much to the annoyance of the people who are trying to get somewhere already! Costa Mesa is crisscrossed with 25 mph streets apart from the main arteries, and there are lots of stop signs, and you really have to take a laid-back approach. 25 . . . stop . . . 25 . . . stop. Drives Type A people clean out of their minds.


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