I haven’t felt the hot sting of tears on my cheeks in years. It’s not that there isn’t plenty to cry about – there is. It’s just that I’m broken in that way. But, today, the tears came. Not once, but over and over again (I’m not quite sure they’re done yet).
I couldn’t possibly tell you all the reasons why I’m broken that way — and that is not what I want to write about anyway — but I can tell you what made me cry today.
I was driving to my daughter’s house and saw a man in a blue Toyota Tundra with a “Proud of my Eagle Scout” bumper sticker. He was driving like a bat-out-of-hell and texting constantly. I caught up with him.
Driving beside him I honked my horn. He looked at me, rolled his window down and started yelling about how he didn’t do anything to me. I have the receiver end of an old-style phone in my car and I gestured with it that he should “put the phone down.” He rolled his eyes and then rolled his window back up.
I honked again and held up a sign with my nephew, Zachary’s picture on it that said, “Drive Like Your Kid Died Here,” and he nodded and slowed down. He then got behind me and coincidentally came to within two blocks of where my daughter and three grandchildren live. We came to a stop sign and I started to get out of my car to give him a copy of the flyer.
He threw his car in reverse but another car was approaching. I said I just wanted to give him the flyer. He rolled down his window again and yelled: “I got your message lady. Just get back in your car! I stopped texting.” I replied, “You don’t want you to be THAT guy,” and continued on to my daughter’s place, pulled into the driveway and felt the tears well up and spill down my cheeks.
A short while later I was driving to do my errands and a man on the freeway was holding his phone, talking. Not as bad as texting I suppose. But I drove next to him for a few miles, holding one of the last images we have of Zachary, a precocious 5- year-old with a smile that would melt anybody’s heart. When he finally looked around, he nodded and put his phone down.
The tears came again.
Before I got home, there were two more encounters. One a plumber, the other a food delivery van, both drivers texting, one swerving into the lane next to him which was occupied by another motorist. I wrote down the phone numbers on the sides of those vehicles.
The first call was good for my heart. The owner’s wife heard the nature of the call and asked to speak with me. She assured me that their company had a strict policy regarding driving safely and further assured me that the driver would be reprimanded. The tears kept flowing…
The second call went to a person named Kevin who disavowed any knowledge of a delivery vehicle with their company’s business name and number on it. I doubt he was being honest.
I’m a little more composed right now. My eyes aren’t leaking anymore, anyway. The sour grass is in bloom everywhere, and I am reminded of another picture of Zachary — an iconic image of his innocence and sweetness — at 5 years old (he’ll never be older than that), holding a bunch of sour grass up to give to his grandma who snapped the photo shortly before he died.
OursDid.org was launched on Feb. 27 2018 at the intersection where Zachary died nine years ago. I was there, dry-eyed and stoic, because, I’m broken that way. The flyer that the traffic police handed out with several hundred tickets they issued that day is on this page for you to use.
I was on the road for an hour today and confronted four motorists who were breaking the law and driving badly. Three out of the four confrontations led to a sense of shame and acknowledgment that safe driving is a better choice. I believe that making distracted driving taboo is the only way that our distracted driving culture will change.
Please, share this article. Share this picture. Hold the drivers around you to account for their poor choices. I call shame on anyone who can look at this little boy and still drive distracted. Join me.
Drive safe and be well.