By Michelle Railey
On a dark and rainy night long ago, a 16-year-old was driving a blue Cutlass Ciera. The idiot girl did not have her headlights turned on. She was deservedly pulled over by the friendly local police. He asked to see her license and she obliged, worrying what she possibly could have done.“Did you know you were driving without your lights on?” says the officer to the teen.
“No, sir.” Pause for consideration. “I’m sorry. But it’s okay. Don’t worry; there are streetlights and I could see fine.”
At which point the officer should have written the feckless moron a ticket and reminded her that the point of headlights is not to enable the driver’s nocturnal vision. The point of headlights is to enable other drivers to see the otherwise invisible cars that other people are driving. In the nighttime. In the rain.
The 16-year old will grow up. (Thank god.) For some strange reason, she’ll remember the night she drove without her headlights. She will remember the night she said, all wide-eyed, well-intentioned innocence: “gosh, officer, no problem because I can see.” She’ll feel foolish, many years later, and she’ll also theorize “well, you know. It would have been nice if, at 16, or now, or sometime, my life didn’t revolve so much around me.” It will worry her that, more frequently than she would like, her thoughts are of the “don’t worry, I can see just fine” variety and not of the “how well can you see?” and “can everyone else see okay” variants.
So if this really happened, that whole blue Cutlass Ciera (if you want to know what song was playing in the tape deck: it was “Norwegian Wood”) without the headlights on in the dark thing — and I can assure you, it did — this leaves me, the driver of the Ciera in question, both reminded and determined to make good on the whole headlight conundrum; to work harder to consider everyone else’s visibility, to consider the views and the sights of others. A little less me. A little more you. It’s something to aim for, in the dark and in the rain. Even in a Cutlass Ciera.