The year was 1998 and for the first time in my life (and never since) I was skinny. Skinny with big boobs- owing to the diet pills my doctor prescribed. (Nasty things, they were- my heart always felt like it was beating out of my chest and I could never get a full breath. Basically I was taking prescribed speed. I’d lost 27 kilos in 6 months.)
Curvy and slender didn’t suit my personality and at 18, I didn’t know how to deal with all the lewd comments and pervy stares of men twice my age.
This is what was going on the night I did something really stupid.
There was a big crowd gathered at Dunsborough Tavern to hear Eskimo Joe- a new and unsigned band that would later go on to big things. I’d had a few UDL’s and a couple of glasses of Passion Pop at my friend’s place before we went across to the gig, and I was lost, light headed and out of place.
I wasn’t a pub kind of girl. I was a church-going girl, who had a lot of pub-going friends. I was a bit between two worlds; not much like the lovely conservative Baptist friends I’d made in my first year of uni (I learned a new swear word that year- “penti”. Penti was pretty much synonymous with dodgy. According to my new friends, drinking was another kind of dodgy… but drinking wasn’t penti.)
I was trying to find my way in the world and figure out who I wanted to be.
I was slightly inebriated, standing alone in the pub in my low cut top, fielding vulgar comments from dodgy old surfers and listening to ‘Sweater’ when I decided I just needed to go home.
I walked back to my friend’s place. She lived right in the middle of town in a falling down shack. No one was there and it was all closed up. I forced open a window and, spilling bottles and smashing ornaments onto the floor, climbed into her bedroom.
I called the local taxi guy (only one taxi in town) and arranged to meet him outside the video store. Grabbing my stuff, I headed across the road to wait for him.
I stood outside the video store and looked back across to my car parked outside my mate’s place. Nola Bean, my little yellow Leyland Mini looked so small and alone. I started to worry about her. I didn’t want to leave her in the middle of town overnight. What if a stranger hot-wired her and drove her into the ocean?
I waited for the taxi. A car came crawling along. It was the local police officers out on patrol. I waved and they waved back, and then they turned up the street toward Old Dunsborough.
I had an idea.
The patrol car had gone left. My home was in the opposite direction.
I dashed across the road and jumped in my car.
I drove my drunk-self home, pausing for a really long time at every intersection, praying, “please God don’t let me crash.”
I fell asleep in my own bed, with my car parked safely on the verandah outside.
It was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done.
Everyone knows drunk drivers kill themselves. And other people.
I think back on that memory and feel great shame.
I was reminded of this night after I pulled onto Roe Highway yesterday. As I tried to merge, a massive horse float came along side and I was forced off the edge of the road. I wasn’t concentrating because I’d been stealing glances at a text message I’d just received on my phone.
The truth of the matter is that looking at your phone while driving is just as dangerous as getting behind the wheel drunk. It’s not possible to safely read email or text a mate while merging into traffic at 90kms per hour. It’s irresponsible, unsafe and just plain stupid.
Recently a courier came to my place to pick up some boxes. He told me that he tries to stay off the road during school drop off and pick up time because his greatest fear in life is mums behind the wheel on their phones.
I laughed but thought to myself, “Oh, he’s scared of me.”
Every year I make an achievable New Year’s Resolution. One year I resolved never to pick my toe nails while sitting on the toilet again. Last year it was to fold all the washing straight off the line. I always keep these resolutions.
This year I am resolving never to touch my phone while I am driving. I will not use it as a GPS, I won’t take calls or look at texts or Facebook while I’m at the lights.
I don’t want a fine.
I don’t want to break the law.
I don’t want to put others in danger.
I don’t want to crash and kill anyone.