Herald Journal Columns
Sept. 19, 2005, Herald Journal

Sunday afternoon drive

By LIZ HELLMANN

It was a beautiful day for a parade. The anticipated fanfare was well under way, but no one could have guessed that this parade would end with a dangerous twist.

There were no terrorists involved, no malicious attack planned, but one individual who was sorely convinced she was right, and the parade was to blame.

The story I am about to regale actually happened, but I will take some creative liberty in telling it. The basic facts of what took place are still intact.

Picture the little children clamoring for delectable roadside goodies, Miss So-and-So waving from atop a glittering float of plastic steamers, fire trucks flashing their lights, and the high school band marching to their own, sometimes flat, beat.

As the floats pass, the children laugh and play, and the parents relax in their canvas lawn chairs. Both parties are oblivious to the sight they are about to witness.

Across town, a little old lady is shopping for her produce at the local farmers’ market.

Normally, she plants her own crops, but this year, she just didn’t seem to have enough energy to garden.

But that wasn’t going to stop her from making her famous strawberry pie, and she certainly wasn’t going to go all summer without fresh tomatoes on hand.

She perused the produce, grumbling every now and then, certain that she could have grown better vegetables than this.

Finally, she meandered her way through the cucumbers and melons to the checkout.

Pleased with the selection she had made, she gave the young boy a tip for helping load her car. Arthritis was getting the best of her these days.

A smile graced her thin lips as she realized she could start making her pie the second she returned home. The grandchildren were coming tonight, and she wanted to have some for them.

She glanced up at the sun, still high in the sky. Plenty of day left, she would probably be able to start making some jam, too. She didn’t work too well when it got dark out, the overhead lights hurt her eyes.

Almost home now. She turned onto Main Street, which would take her six blocks to her big, yellow house.

This was the same street she had been driving for 65 years. Her parents’ farm used to be just over that hill, but of course, the road was gravel back then.

Burton, God rest his soul, had built their house the first year they were married.

The house was almost too big for her to take care of by herself, but there was nowhere else she wanted to live.

It was her home, and this was her street.

Confusion broke loose on the parade route as the 1985 Buick headed straight into the floats.

People were dazed at first, and then, began to think it was funny.

A little old lady has turned onto the parade route, and is going the wrong way!

Laughter turns to concern, as the crowds realize this lady wasn’t slowing down.

Nearly side-swiping one float, the lady picked up speed as she lurched towards the band.

Purple and silver uniforms swirl together as she stares out her windshield.

What are all these people doing on the street? Why are they blocking the way?

She has to get home to make the pie before it gets too late.

This is her street, she drives on it every Sunday afternoon to go to the farmers’ market.

Why are they doing this to her? Where is her house?

Hot, angry tears began to run down her cheeks, blurring her vision. She just wants to get home, and these teenagers are in the way.

She tries to drive past them. If she can just get around them, her house is only a few blocks away.

Why aren’t they letting her through?

Frustrated, she tries steering around the army of purple and silver. Confused, she plows her way past floats, yelling out her window for the people to get out of her way, reaching speeds up to 45 miles per hour.

Parents frantically grab their children, protecting them from this crazy lady.

Town princesses abdicate their plastic thrones, clutching at their polyester gowns, while trying to dodge the out-of-control Buick.

Was the parade in the lady’s way?

Did she have the right of way?

When I first heard this story, how a lady drove 45 miles per hour through a parade route, it seemed apparent to me, and several other people, that the lady should have her licensed revoked. After all, she was clearly at fault.

How many people do you know who seem to plow through life, always thinking they are right?

They are oblivious to the fact that to everyone around them, they are clearly going the wrong way.

But how many people do you know who actually take the time to figure out exactly why they feel that way?

Sure, the lady was going against the parade route, but the parade route was on her street. She had driven this street long before most of the people in the parade were even born.

I am not saying the lady was or wasn’t at fault. What she did was dangerous, and, thankfully, no one was seriously injured.

But sometimes, it is easier to point accusing fingers at people without trying to first understand where they are coming from.

Even if they are going the wrong way, they might have good intentions.

I highly doubt that the lady’s grandchildren dismissed her as crazy when she served them another slice of strawberry pie that night.

There was nothing wrong with where she was trying to go, but like everyone, she just needed a little help getting there.