Since driving by myself for the past few weeks, I have become a whole new person. I’ve had the liberty to go to school (or anywhere) when I want and leave whenever. The time it takes for me to walk and take the bus to school for the whole year is how long it takes for me to drive from Ronkonkoma to Stony Brook. Except in the former case, I get a little daily exercise squeezed into my daily agenda, on top of going to the gym. While I have been experiencing a brief and convenient stint of independence with my dad’s car, I have lost my personal space. I do not have my own room to return to, I have a curfew, I have a bedtime, and I am limited to what my family does. I get easily distracted at home, whether it’s my sister talking about K-pop or my mom complaining about the trashy neighbors. True, I get a home-cooked Shanghainese meal and a roof over my head, but I have lost my personal time. So that means I cannot stay out for parties or go out to bars or study into nighttime. I put all my productivity hours at the library and come home to settle down and relax. I’ve been sleeping well, a little too well, but it’s not like I’ve slept sourly all year either.
I’ve come to a few observations these last few weeks.
1) Do NOT jaywalk on Long Island. I have to get rid of that habit of professional jaywalking. I’m not in the city anymore where you are always on the go and cars cannot speed more than 30 mph anyway. Even in my car and I have to make a left turn or a turn onto the highway, I get a little tense. Driving at 55+ mph is scary enough, and add to that 70 mph cars going in the opposite direction or passing you like maniacs. The road gets frightening, and I don’t want to be roadkill, in and out of my car…
2) Speaking of roadkill, I have seen way too many dead animals on the streets. I grew up on Express Dr. S, a service road to the LIE, so I’ve seen plenty of dead squirrels on my way to the bus stop. Walking to my bus stop this year, I have seen a few rather large critters lying dead on Oxhead Rd. Bloody flesh splattered and fur tangled, I’ve been freaked out a few times walking by. These last few weeks have been bigger eye-openers, because while commuting from Ronkonkoma to Stony Brook, I have driven past more dead animals: squirrels and opossums. I didn’t even know opossums were on Long Island until I saw a few dead ones this year. Big opossums. I don’t understand how people can drive and not have the mercy to avoid hitting these poor animals. It’s not hard to spot a crossing animal and slow down. If you saw a girl jaywalking in Manhattan, you would not just keep speeding up and eventually hitting her. Likewise, if you saw a crossing dog, someone’s pet, you would not hit the gas pedal and go.
But no no, people are wild, terrible drivers. With their SUVs, vans, trucks, and luxury cars, people like to live life in the fast lane. That’s why my neighbors growing up lost their precious golden retriever. That’s why I’ve seen dozens of decomposing squirrels as a little girl. That’s why I was almost hit by a car when I was a toddler. That’s why I get pissed off seeing roadkill all the time.
I almost committed roadkill today. I was driving with my dad on Motor Pkwy to Waldbaum’s. I was going at about 50 mph on that local highway, and I spotted a hopping squirrel crossing the road. My heart stopped and I hit the brake pedal to slow down and swerve aside. I gasped, “Whoa!” and almost set myself in cardiac arrest. The squirrel ended up fine and alive, but I would’ve hated myself if I did commit roadkill. I really think I need to start using that horn, to honk at animals, and people. I don’t use it enough because I get so focused on driving that I forget I have that option to curse out at bad drivers or careless animals.
I’ll just establish this fact again: I am a safe and compassionate driver. I just need my parents to start believing that.