we’re on i-17, flying down the screamer downhill from flagstaff. i push down on the brake. And Nothing Happens.
it’s been uneventful up to this point. day trip to flag. pizza, hike on the buffalo, coffee. i’m listening to marie kondo on an audiobook as she tells me to throw away everything that doesn’t spark joy. i tell mo that’s her problem. she’s too joyful. i suppose a person could have worse traits.
and now here we are. i’m in the right lane of the interstate, coming up too quickly on a white suv in front of me. traffic is heavy; moving into the left lane is impossible. i push down on the brake pedal as the car gets closer. the pedal goes to the floorboard. nothing.
i am instantly gripped with fear. i glance at the dash. no warning light. i turn off the cruise control. nothing. i pump the brake. no effect at all.
what do i do? i think of the 737 pilots who crashed. i get it now. you have fleeting moments to make a life-or-death decision.
i swerve onto the shoulder on the right, narrowly flying past the suv. he blasts his horn in anger, but it doesn’t slow me down. in front of me next is an 18-wheeler. i’m in a tiny honda fit. i don’t know if there’s room to squeeze past him. and i’m picking up speed as we hurtle down the hill.
my life flashes before my eyes. in it, i’m wearing a jaunty cowboy outfit with six-shooters. little gary has no idea what he’ll face at the end of the movie.
i’m not sure what mo is doing in the co-pilot seat. we’re both just trapped in the moment, that little flash where everything went from normal to oblivion.
the truck is almost on me. i tighten my grip on the steering wheel, bracing for the worst.
i realize i mistakenly have my foot on the clutch. i had taken my feet off the pedals while on cruise control and ended up on the wrong pedal. i step on the brake, and we begin to slow.
we drive the rest of the way home at a speed Granddad would have liked in his later years. we give up on marie kondo. it’s just stuff. not life and death.
mostly you forget. the thing that truly sparks joy is life. don’t throw it away.
i wish i still had that cowboy outfit …