Tonight I finally attended the much anticipated seatbelt class. I arrived at 6:45, just in time for me to find myself a seat next to a collection of individuals: older ladies with gray buns, men in ties, teenagers popping gum, indifferent hipsters, curmudgeons. How did I arrive at such a place? A few months ago, after bringing my father's blessed Volvo Bertone to the DEQ for inspection, on the way to the DMV to change the plates from Colorado to Oregon, an officer on a motorcycle with a yellow mustache pulled me over for not wearing my seatbelt. The truth was, I thought I had it on. I'd been adamant about wearing seat belts for years and used to beg my stubborn mother to put hers on while driving from one end of Jersey to the other. I thought I had clicked the buckle back into place while exiting the DEQ, but apparently I hadn't, which led me to the classroom with a smorgasbord of cranky humans and a determined crone faced nurse.
In this very classroom with stained blue folding theatre chairs and a flickering LCD projector, myself and those around me were told that we very well could be responsible for "preventable" deaths. When I walk across the street without looking once, twice, and a third time - when I drive just 2 miles over the speed limit - when my seatbelt doesn't hit me in just the right place below the pelvis - when I pack a bag of groceries in my back seat - when I allow others to ride in the front seat of my car under the age of 14 - I am putting myself, others and all pets on the road (and apparently off the road) at risk.
Low resolution videos produced in Australia revealed "what if" situations as myself and those around me stared aghast at the body of a 5 year old boy being struck and run over by an SUV.
The nurse slapped us awake with a photograph of a heavily swollen and bloodied man. "This is what happens when you lay your seat back to take a nap in the passenger's seat"
She bullied us into submission with another image of a man in vegetative state with a breathing tube spilling from his throat.
It was an absurd (I found myself chuckling at fairly inappropriate times) and manipulative (The fear is in me. I feel it) experience, one I'd rather not remember, one that instilled in me a deep paranoia when hopping on my bicycle and pedaling home, one that inspired me to either stay at home for the rest of my life or trade all wheels in for a beloved show pony.