While I looked out my window today, I saw, as I do on most days, a car just sort of slow down at the stop sign on the corner. It was more of a I’ll just remove my foot from the accelerator and let a slight downward slope of the road slow me type slowing. Most days, I just feel a bit of righteous anger at flaunting of road rules (I have a daughter after all and the corner lot), but today I was struck by a whimsical and oh my God how am I not dead memory.
Hot, dry and feeling like a convection oven toasting dried bread, the weather of Lake Havasu was so normal as to be prosaic. However, it was not the magnificent weather of desert “it’s a dry heat” U.S.A that had me and a few friends at a Spring Break paradise filled with twenty thousand tourists, a pleasing lack of hotel rooms, a positively sublime lack of parking, and a 2G cellular network more clogged than a toilet after dinner from Taco Bell. No, the decision that drove us to that breathtakingly nonsensical Spring Break party in the desert was the same decision that had me drive home at 2 in the morning. That decision?
Can one use nonsensical twice in a paper? Asking for a friend.
So. There we were. Four young adults with enough sense to fill a leaky thimble somewhere near the top. A white Ford Mustang with a Fix-A-Flat loving tire. A pair of headlights pointed too low. And a driver with a right foot getting heavier by the minute, driving through a rolling desert landscape, on a road he had never driven on before. A trifecta magnifie.
To this day, I’ll never know why I ignored the speed limit sign. The sign posted “Road Ends. Cliff ahead.”. But there we were, 109 miles per hour, 2 am, sober, cranky, and tired. The Mustang passed an unread road sign and then crested the apex of a rolling hill to find a semi-truck gasoline tanker pulling out from a gas station onto the road. Feet slammed the clutch and brake. Tires were squealing; while a certain grim farmer touched ice around my heart as the Mustang slid at a two foot tall stainless steel fender attached to one hundred thousand pounds of diesel powered machine—
Sand. It is an interesting thing. Just billions upon billions, trillions really, of eroded rock particulate. Did you know that entire deserts made up of this kind of stuff can migrate? Amazing stuff. Can save your life too.
A life cut short before it could really begin, I’m sure we all would’ve thought if you could think in a situation as incongruous. Meters. Mere meters before Pennsylvania steel won over Dearborn aluminum, the Mustang hit a patch of sand and spun. Around the semi-truck fender.
Calves bursting from pressure on the brake and clutch, and the surge of adrenaline, the white Ford Mustang spun like a top. There’s no “steer into it” when one gets caught in a hundred mile per hour spin. The best analogy would be we were caught in a flat spin of Top Gun epic-ness but without Goose’s ejection seat. When all of a sudden, in a manner as abrupt as the saying conveys, the darn car slams to a stop. It was all of five feet away from a sheer drop that went down a dizzying sixty or so feet.
Watching people run the stop sign at the corner of my corner lot makes me think of many things. I wonder if they are careless. Perhaps they simply don’t understand what the sign means. Perhaps they are new to driving and the sign goes over their head as it were. Or maybe they are like a certain 22 year old who flouted the rules of the road, and they count on an intervention of divine sorts that will stop grievous harm from their person and others. Really though, I suppose most people are just inconsiderate and don’t care enough to stop at a stop sign on a residential road.