Hey U

I’m proud to say that if I miss my exit or street, I won’t cut you off or blindly make my move, hoping that you see me and make room. I will proceed in a sane manner to the next possible place where I can turn around. I did this twice tonight.

The first instance found me in the wrong lane at the end of an unfamiliar freeway off-ramp. The second instance found me in the wrong lane to get back onto the freeway again. Traffic was fairly heavy, so instead of fighting it I went east for a mile, exited, then got back on and headed west.

I remember a story from one of our cross-country vacations back in the 80s. My dad was driving our massive, forest green station wagon and towing our trailer; the four of us were making our way to North Carolina to see friends. One day we were getting back on the highway and, as my dad was getting up to speed on the on-ramp, the driver ahead of him suddenly decided to come to a stop.

Like, we’re talking a dead stop.

A dead stop with a trailer-towing, fully-loaded station wagon barreling down on said stopped car.

My dad did his best to stop in time and, fortunately, his best was enough — but not before my parents saw their lives flash before their eyes and were convinced we were all going to die. Squealing tires and red-hot brakes rained fury upon that driver. I think I remember them saying this happened somewhere in the middle of Texas or New Mexico — I can’t recall. I don’t remember this happening, as I was pretty young; I only remember the story of it.

The driver could’ve and should’ve been more aware, but wasn’t. They could have noticed us in the rearview mirror and easily kept going, making their way to the next exit and then stopping to do whatever it was they needed to do — but they didn’t. This story has been stuck in my head for close to three decades, and I think it’s made me a better driver.

Make a u-turn when you realize you’re on the wrong course. Don’t get crazy, don’t take anyone else out in the process (including yourself) — just be aware, rational and correct at your earliest convenience. Being unaware and oblivious is where we can get ourselves and others into trouble.

Tonight I am thankful for knowing that u-turns aren’t just for the road, but are also for the roads of life. They may take a while to reach, or they may be a side-street just ahead, but they’ll always be available to us. It’s up to us to take advantage of them while we can, and to keep an eye out for our fellow man in the process.

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