By the way, I should probably preface this by saying that one of my nicknames in high school and college was "A.J." - after the race car driver, A.J. Foyt (I don't know a lick about who he is beyond that I just looked him up in Wikipedia and that states "considered by many as the greatest American race care driver of all time"). My other nickname was "crazy legs" but that is a topic for another day. The AJ moniker was applied to me due to the fact that despite being stone sober, I managed to do all the following in about 5 seconds:
- flip and total my parents car
- land upside down
- with my girlfriend in the passenger seat
- both of us not wearing seatbelts but neither of us got a scratch
- not destroy the stereo (Rush's "2112" was still playing on the tape deck as we staggered out through the still functional doors - man it's hard opening a car door when you're upside down!)
- all on the way to the prom
- and me without a license (I only had a drivers permit at the time).
Needless to say, that formative introduction to the world of the automobile (as well as proms) scarred me for years to come and I drove like a 90 year old in a cadillac with cataracts for a while after that. It took me a full decade and a couple years of urban driving to overcome that timidity and achieve the kind of reckless speed freak abandon that stuck with me until just a week ago.
But anyways, I usually tried to keep things within 15 miles of the posted limit to be safe but had retained my city-bred impatience with drivers who actually take the time to slow down considerably before making a turn and who are going slow enough to eschew the need to cut the corner of the oncoming lane to do so.
So at this point we come back to almost the present - a week ago. My car had been progressively making louder and more alarming sounds for a couple weeks (loud enough even to be heard above the din of music that always envelops the interior) and I finally was taking it to my mechanic for a look see. Well, for once, I was in no hurry and was not driving particularly fast, about 10 above the 55 limit. However, I was in the process of changing cd's in my stereo and I must have hit the accelerator a little. Just at that moment a state trooper happens to be approaching me from the other direction. He passes and quickly u-turns and pulls me over. How the hell he radared me from the opposite direction, I'll never know (I'm sure it's possible, but perhaps he didn't, just said he did!). Anyways, he said he had me doing 70 and took all my documents back to his vehicle after I explained that the name on the registration was indeed me, just reflected my pre-legal change name. Well I got lucky folks. He must have taken pity on me and he came back and said he would just cite me for an obscured license plate. He left with a stern warning to "slow the fuck down!" WHEW - dodged a big goddamn bullet there!!!
That incident alone may not have been enough to convince me to change my ways, but my mechanic then informed me I needed 4 new tires and that at least my right side wheel bearings needed to be replaced. Even though he said it was just normal wear and tear, I suspect that my driving habits may have played a part in hastening that wear. About $700 later I decided I need to dry out - navigation-wise.
Don't get me wrong - I don't think I have the capacity to turn into that agonizingly laggard grandpa with the golfer's beanie and the feather foot, but I will slow down to more reasonable speeds and hopefully live a little longer and save my passengers a little stress. Who says people can't change, right? :-)