A true story:
Years ago I was driving home from working the night shift. It was midnight. I came to a four-way traffic light. The light was red.
I grew up in a small town. I knew this road like the back of my hand and I knew it was completely deserted. I knew there was no one to my left; it was a road leading to a mine and the mine was shut down for the night. I knew there was no one to my right; I had a clear line of vision and there was no one for the next mile at least. There was no one in the road along the large pond in front of me.
It was summer. I could hear nothing but crickets out the open window.
I could just drive right through this red light and get home to bed that much quicker and no one would ever know.
I was going to college full-time, studying to be a teacher. I was working the three-to-eleven shift as a nurse’s aide to fund college.
I was responsible for ten patients a night. My patients included stroke victims who suffered from aphasia, a quadriplegic in his early twenties whose fate broke my heart, a schizophrenic convinced that her TV was communicating nefarious commands. I fed, bathed, exercised, and diapered ten patients a night. I ministered to fist-deep bed sores that exposed raw muscle and bled vile-smelling pus. I sponged up vomit and had human feces up to my elbows. We didn’t even use gloves in those days.
I earned minimum wage and drove a ten-year-old Plymouth Duster that broke down every time it rained. No mechanic was ever able to fix this handicap. The Automobile Club rejected my membership.
I was doing good things for society! I earned the right to go through that red light! I could see that there was no traffic!
I floored it.
The first part of the above story is true. I did work as a nurse’s aide, I did work the night shift, I did drive a Plymouth Duster, and I did come to that very four-way traffic light around midnight.
The rest of the story is not true. I did not sit there thinking about what a special person I was, what a gift to society.
I did run that red light once. I didn’t do it on purpose. I did it because I was exhausted. A police officer stopped me. I was so flustered and teary that he let me off with just a warning, because he was too nice a guy to give a teary teenage girl the ticket she deserved.
I have known people who were convinced that they were so much better than everyone else that they were above the rules.