Speed Hurts

I wonder who coined the term “the dog days of summer”. I wonder what they meant by it. I know what it means to me – it’s those days in August where the mercury hovers around the 100 degree mark (37.8 celsius), those days when you can see the heat shimmer off of the asphalt, when the allure of summer has long passed and the prospects of going back to school actually seem like a good thing…

The sun was setting on one of these dog days in the summer of 1979, and I was talking my buddy into letting me try riding his motorcycle. I had never driven a clutch I had confessed, and he had me believing that it wasn’t that hard and I just might be able to do it.

The one condition was he had to go with me. Now I have to admit at this point I see no logic to him wanting to be on the back of a motorcycle the first time I ever drove one, but he did, and off we went.

How can I describe this experience to you? It was religious. A life changing, transformative experience… one that I can feel to the very core of me as I try to convey it to you. Oh man was it amazing!

The hot air blowing past my face, the blur of the weeds along that country road as we flew… yeah, that was it… it was like flying. The clutch was no problem, I had the knack in no time.

We were flying fast! In no time I realized I was going 115 mph (185 kph) and my buddy was screaming for me to slow down. I laughed as we approached the bridge over one of the many irrigation canals, drunk on the speed and magic of the moment…

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All of this came to me as I talked with Chris. He and I were talking in a parking lot, I had mentioned that his car looked faster when it was parked than mine did while it was moving. He was obviously proud of his car, and assured me it was fast–very fast.

Maybe too fast.

He bought the car, a 2006 Mustang, when he was 17 and the car was brand new. He told me with pride that he was 8 payments away from owning it. Then he smirked and laughed and said “that would be funny if I paid for my car and lost my license to drive it”.

He lives about 45 minutes away from his work, and tries to drive it in 30. Well, the tickets have piled up over the years. First his license was suspended for a month, the next time it was three. He told me that if he gets one more ticket they will suspend him for a year. Then he looked at me very seriously and assured me that wasn’t going to happen…

And I thought about that day in 1979, as we approached the bridge, me laughing out loud at my buddy screaming for some modicum of sanity…

That’s when we passed through the cloud of gnats, hovering above the road in the moist air around the canal. Millions of needle picks peppered my entire body – my t-shirt was small protection. The pain I remember most was the gnats hitting the back of my open mouth… I slowed down, I had to. Coughing and choking and sputtering I learned then what Chris is learning now…

Speed is a rush, but speed can hurt.

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