I would rather break the rules than break my neck.
Slipping into the morning rush hour queue on the parkway like a hand into a glove, I rapidly became one with the car configuration headed toward the city at a speed that was little faster than that of a brisk walk.
But the true break came in the form of my own—brakes, that is. Depressing their pedal in order to avoid contact with the preceding car’s bumper while the view of my home remained framed by my rearview mirror, I felt not a snag nor drag—only a rapid sink—toward the floor.
Generating more adrenaline than brake fluid, I shifted internal gears until my heart pumped louder than my engine and breathed a restorative sigh as the pads snatched the drums like fingernails dragged across a blackboard—except the sound was infinitely sweeter. Had it not been for the snail’s pace of the traffic, I doubt that I would have been able to bring the car to a halt from anything higher than the single-digit speed I had been forced to maintain.
Left with fewer choices than brakes, I rapidly recalculated my strategy, aborting my commute. The parkway’s next exit led to my neighborhood car service and repair shop—and I homed into it like a soul returning to Heaven.
Easing on to its ramp and sipping the last ounce of fluid with its flush-to-the-floor pedal, I glided to the stop sign at a speed not experienced since I had been a baby crawling on the floor—and, without life-sustaining brakes, felt just as helpless, now prepared to drag my foot along the road if all else failed.
Grateful that the clear crossroad allowed me to save what remained of the precious commodity, I made the required right turn and glided through two, God-was-with-me green lights, before shifting into first gear and making a second right on to the shop’s street. I felt as if I had been making a landing in a crippled airplane and it had served as its runway.
Ceasing to roll as the pedal clunked against the floor like a piece of dead weight, I parked behind the other vehicles that had been brought in for maintenance, grateful to be alive.
When the attendant approached me with her clipboard and the numbered cards she attached to each car’s rearview mirror, she asked, “What time is your appointment?”
“I don’t have one,” I responded. “My brakes just gave out and I was lucky to make it here in one piece.”
Donning her “instructor’s mask,” she retorted, “You should make an appointment, you know!”
Meaning, I should have continued to drive and risk damage, harm, and potential death to myself and others until I had been able to secure the almighty appointment, I thought?
“Sometimes life and circumstances don’t always agree with what’s written in the rule books,” I told her. “That’s when you use your reasoning and rationality to transcend them—and stay alive, as I just did.”
She looked at me as my morning’s reality collided with the theory she had been forced to learn—and I could not have been more grateful that that collision had occurred in her head and not on the road.