Yesterday after work, I headed to a 5 1/2 hour 'safe driver' class. Ten days ago I got a 'speeding' ticket. And today I wake up as a safer driver.
I looked around my 'safe driver' class at the other attendees. 47 of us. Eight female, the rest men. Six younger than 21 (the instructor asked). 32 of us there for speeding 6-11 miles over the speed limit. A few were there for illegal turns, for reckless lane changes, for 'rolling' stops at intersections. Only seven had received speeding tickets from the new and plentiful photo radar systems on our highways.
One older guy had on big suspenders with his work jeans. He looked like he could have just come in from Laveen, after finishing evening chores on his acres. The girl beside me was dressed as if she just came in from Wall Street. Several of the men were businessmen - their ties loose, their blackberries disengaged for the 5 plus hours. The man in front of me was a 'private' taxi driver from Ethiopia. The woman behind me just wanted to get home to her kids - she was sure they weren't doing whatever they were supposed to be doing...
At break time I asked a woman if she, too, was a 'speeder'. She said she was from Jamaica, had never been stopped by a policeman - in fact, had never ever talked to a policeman! - but she received a photo of her going too fast on Loop 101. She was still shocked that she never was stopped, never talked to an officer, never had a chance to be polite. "Radar! Radar! I never even showed my license or saw anyone! They say it was photo RADAR!"
Just like this woman from Jamaica, I hate my ticket. I just HATE it. I hate that I got it around the corner on an early morning. I hate that I got it on a street that isn't lined with driveways or children riding bikes, a street that is pretty much a cut-through street. I hate that there have been times that I knew I was speeding and deserved a ticket - yet those times I didn't get stopped. I guess this ticket equals it out. Whether 6 miles over the limit or 11 miles over the limit, speeding is speeding.
So, looking around the room, I realized we were all equal. We had been touched by the GREAT EQUALIZER. We were all in our own little cocoon when we were stopped or caught. And now we were all equal. We all paid our fine with cashier check. We all paid the $30 extra to have our ticket dismissed. We all were relieved that our insurance rates wouldn't be affected. We were all equal.
But you know what happens next? This morning I opened an email from a friend. It took me to a place I wasn't prepared to go. It took me back to 7th grade. It took me back to that school year in India, when our class spent an hour each day making toys, crafts, clothing. It took me back to the field trip that my class took to one of Mother Theresa's orphanages. It took me back to our field trip being a day of volunteer work at the orphanage, working with the children. It took me back to where I wasn't prepared to go. It took me back to all the tears I had, to insisting to my mother that we just HAD to adopt one or two of the children. It took me back to the need to be able to make a difference, to fill a child's belly and life. It took me back to holding on to my mother as we both cried in despair. It took me back to my father's frustration with our emotions and helplessness. It took me back to just wanting to make a difference in a child's life.
It was an email with text stating "You think you have it bad?" The email includes a powerpoint of soldiers hurting, of villagers hauling fuel on their backs, of families without anything, of children starving to the point of mere bones, skeletons with hearts, pains, souls, fears.
And again I switch gears. I realize that last night's class wasn't an equalizer. It was a luxury. It was a damn luxury.