by Margaret Lucke
One day when I was sixteen and the proud possessor of a freshly minted drivers license, I was cruising along the main street of my hometown. I happened to glance at the rearview mirror and there, directly behind me, was a police car.
Instant panic. Omigosh, omigosh, am I going to get a ticket?
Never mind that there were no flashing lights or wailing sirens, no bullhorn demanding that I pull over. I was new at driving -- I must have done something wrong without realizing it. I didn't think I'd been speeding, but could I have crept over the limit unawares? Had I neglected to use a turn signal when I should have? Was a brake light out?
I was so intently focused on watching the cop in the mirror, trying to figure out what he was going to do, that I was three-quarters of the way through an intersection before I noticed that the light was red.
Whatever the cop's intentions had been before, now he had good reason to stop me. The lights blinked on, red and blue. The siren blared. My hands shaking on the wheel, I moved to the curb. He stopped behind me and got out. Standing by my driver's door, he demanded to see my license.
I'm sure the fact that I was a teenage girl, prettier and blonder than I am now, made no difference. He probably wasn't swayed by the way my lips quivered and my eyes filled with tears as I explained why I had happened to run the light. But whatever the reason, luckily for me my town's finest decided not to give me a ticket.
"I understand how you might have been distracted," he said. "But, you know, when you're driving it's always a good idea to pay more attention to what's in front of you than to what you see in the rearview mirror."
I promised him I would take his words to heart. Since then, I've realized he gave me good advice -- not just for driving but for life. Be aware of where you're going, keep your eye on the road ahead -- and now and then, glance at the rearview mirror, just in case something important is back there.