Writer’s Block: A hard lesson luckily learned the easy way

I am easily distracted.

Mandy Moran Froemming
Mandy Moran Froemming

The chatter and the clatter from all the cubicles in the newsroom rings through my head all day long.

At home there have been countless cooking disasters because I’ve started something on the stove and then found something more interesting to do. I’ve slid a tray of muffins out of the oven, only to realize the eggs for the recipe are still sitting on the counter.

I am currently reading at least four different books.

I envy people who can block out the world to get a task done or not have multiple things on the go at the same time.

But there is one place where I can say my distraction takes a back seat.

It’s in the car.

I have never in my life sent a text while driving.

In addition to being easily distracted, I’m not especially coordinated. This makes texting while driving a recipe for disaster. Oh right, and it’s illegal.

It makes me crazy to see someone looking down at their iPhone while they navigate rush hour traffic, even if they seem to have everything under control.

I am now a worried walker as I push the stroller and my son up and down streets, fearing someone won’t be paying attention and we’ll get creamed.

I don’t talk on my cell phone while behind the wheel either. The rare exception would be when traffic is backed up on Main Street and I know I’m two light changes away from making the left turn onto Ferry Street.

In that case you might have enough time to knit a scarf or write a poem. Maybe come up with a solution for the current budget crisis. Mostly I just sing along to the radio.

But despite all my self-righteous talk, preaching and nagging, not that long ago I made a terrible driving mistake.

I feel asleep behind the wheel.

This happened with my husband snoring next to me and my 19-month-old asleep in the back seat.

It has been almost three months, but the panic still rises in my throat when I think about it.

It was just after the holidays and our little family was making our way across U.S. Highway 2 in North Dakota, headed for home in the Twin Cities.

I was exhausted from looking after a sick kid while battling bronchitis myself. I probably had too much cold medication running through my system.

Right around Devil’s Lake, about two hours into a nine-hour trip, I could feel myself struggling. Still, I zoomed past the rest stop, set the cruise at 75 mph and hoped to make some good time while my toddler napped.

I’m not sure when I joined him. I don’t know if it was jut a long blink or something more.

But when my eyes flew open and I realized what was going on I have never been so terrified.

I opened the window. I turned up the radio. But at that point I had so much adrenaline pumping through my body it wasn’t necessary.

I got to learn a hard lesson the easy way. I was still in my lane. The nearest traffic was a pickup about a quarter mile ahead on the double lane highway.

According to a recent Center for Disease Control study, one in 24 people admit to recently falling asleep behind the wheel.

I guess that could make me feel better that I’m not alone. But it mostly just scares me. A population of drivers just as dangerous as drunks are on our roads all the time. I was one of them.

Next time? I’ll pull over. My husband and I will plan our driving shifts better.

In this day and age where we go, go, go and slowing down can be a considered sign of weakness, I don’t think this problem is going anywhere.

The only way that will change is if we all vow to pull over and recognize that little rest isn’t a luxury, it could be a lifesaver.