Most of the bad things in life, you might think, only happen to other people. Never you, because you know better. You’re responsible, careful and smart. And if, for example, you and your family must drive 500 miles to get to your mother’s house for the holiday, you’ll make sure everyone is 100 percent ready for trip – bags packed; pillows and blankets in the car; water, juice and snacks on hand.
But if you’re like me, you’re in the habit of putting everyone else’s’ needs ahead of your own because, as I said, you’re responsible, careful and smart. Most days, things work out just fine. Today, though, it almost cost me and my family’s life.
First, let me say we’re all fine, as is the Town & Country minivan we rented for the trip. Now, here’s the short version: I feel asleep at the wheel on the highway, foot still on the gas. I was shocked awake by my son yelling “Mom!” from the back seat, and looked up to see we were speeding downward into a ditch.
Where my calmness came from, I’ll never know, but I managed to smoothly steer us out of the grass and dirt, safely back onto the highway.
Needless to say, I was wide awake from that point on.
I spent the next hour thinking about all the things that could have gone wrong. I could have hit a guardrail, or a deer, or driven off an overpass onto the cars or into the water below. But nothing like that happened, and that’s all that matters.
Well, that and the fact that I will never, ever attempt to drive while feeling even the least bit sleepy.
It was my turn to drive, and the last few hours of the nine-hour trip. I’m afraid of heights, so didn’t take over the wheel until we had safely cleared the mountains of West Virginia. Although I’d had less than four hours’ sleep in the previous 24 hours, I felt bright-eyed and bushy-tailed – until I got behind the wheel.
I turned up the music. I let cold air blast onto my face. I bounced around in my seat and thought about how nice it was going to be the rest of the week. I even considered reaching over to wake up Bobby – who’d already driven most of the way – because I had this nagging feeling that maybe I was too tired to drive.