Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reflection in the Window

Yesterday, I took my kids on an all day outing. We left about 9:30 in the morning and ended up getting home at close to one in the morning. On the way home I was tired. Really tired.

My Dad taught me years ago one of the most effective lessons ever on drowsy driving. If he was tired and rolling down the window or the radio wasn't helping, he would pull over and sleep somewhere for a while. When I was a child, the son of a close family friend was driving down a mountain pass and fell asleep at the wheel. He went off the road and was involved in a serious collision. He lost both of his legs. Another one of my parent's friends was driving on a road trip and fell asleep at the wheel. When the crash happened, her husband was ejected from the car and died. Seeing the example of my father when he is tired and knowing that crap happens when we least expect it has a way of working itself into the subconscious. I know it could happen to me.

Last night when I was about 40 minutes from home and driving along the freeway, I fell asleep. My eyes didn't close. But my brain had checked out. I became aware of twinkling lights and was alert in an instant.  I thought a policeman had turned on his lights and wanted to pull me over.

I was relieved to find out that no, I was not being pulled over. It turned out that it was the star burst effect of the headlights on the other side of the freeway. And, I was freaked out to know that I had checked out and not even realized it. I committed to making it to the next rest stop. I knew one was coming up. In a few minutes, I pulled over. I think I slept for about an hour. It wasn't that comfortable. My neck had a kink in it. But I was awake. Just as I was putting the key in the ignition, my 6 year-old started struggling to unbuckle his seat belt. He was groggy. Out of it. I finally understood that he needed to use the restroom. I got him out of the car and pointed to the men's room. He couldn't move. Just stood there confused. I walked him to the men's room and pushed open the door. There were very few cars in the parking lot. I took that opportunity to use the women's restroom and was back in the car in less than 2 minutes.

My son had not returned, yet, so I gave him a few more minutes. I started thinking about just pushing the restroom door open and calling out his name. My next thought was to ask a guy in the coffee booth to check to see if my son needed any help. As I was trying to decide what to do, I looked around the parking lot to gauge how many people/men may or may not be in the restroom. Then I noticed in the vehicle "next" to us (3 spaces over), my son's reflection was in the window. It took me a moment to realize that actually, I wasn't seeing a reflection. My son was not standing outside the car. He was in the car, looking out the window. Not understanding that he wasn't in our car.

What's really funny is that when I went to get him out of the car (hoping that the car's owner wouldn't show up wondering why I was getting into their car), the car was full of random stuff. There was only one seat empty in the back, which was where my son sat. Never mind that he didn't have a booster seat or that there's no way his 3 siblings could have fit in it. I asked him what he was doing in someone else's car? He looked at me blankly. Then his eyes moved from the car he had been in to ours. Our Pilot seats 8 and this other seats 5...or 3 with cargo. They are both black. He told me they looked similar. And I suppose when it's very dark out (almost new moon time) that they do look similar. I got him buckled in the right car, double checked all of my children were with us, and I chuckled all the way home.

Really?! My son wandered into a stranger's car? Ha ha ha. Yes, he did. Of all the things that could have happened with our full day and drowsy evening, I'm incredibly grateful that was the worst of it.


  1. Ha ha, That is too funny! Did you take off before the owner got back?

    1. I think the car must have belonged to the guys that hand out coffee...I mean we were there too long for it to have been someone just using the restroom. But yes, I left as soon as I made sure my boy had buckled up.


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