birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


Several months ago it was time for me to get a new car. My beloved 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid had a few contusions and abrasions but was still running fine. The gas mileage was amazing and I so loved the technology—the back-up camera, the hands-free phone and especially the blind spot detectors. But the air conditioning was broken and the cost of replacing it was more than 50% of the Ford‘s book value.
I was determined that whatever car I bought had to have blind spot detectors. I attribute my morbid fear of driving on interstate highways to my firm faith that someone is lurking in my blind spot ready to take me out. When I was 16 and learning to drive, someone put the terror of God in me about blind spots, as it turns out, with good reason. I loved those little red lights on my side mirrors. I relied on them to keep me from certain death or the very least road rage of some trigger-happy driver I had cut off in traffic. I had done that, been there and didn’t want to be there again. I had, apparently, in my lifetime almost caused several collisions because of the confounded blind spot. And those were at slow speed in light traffic. No injuries. No damage. No contact. But there was rage.
I recall driving up NorthMain St. in our hometown of Mount Vernon, Ohio and merging into the turn lane, planning to make a left turn on Vine Street. Apparently, I cut off I a guy in a jacked-up pick-up truck. Now Mount Vernon’s population hovers around 16,000 and the downtown Main Street, bordered on the north by Chestnut street and on the South by Ohio Avenue, is a total of four blocks long. Main is a two-lane street with two-way traffic. The speed limit is twenty-five. It is hard to get into a blind-spot crisis when there are no lanes to change into, but I managed. Maybe the truck guy was annoyed that I was poking along at the speed limit and decided to pass me in the turn lane? Who knows? What I do know is that he followed me for blocks, blasting his horn, cursing abusively, and waving his middle finger in the wind. I was so relieved when he finally passed me, leaving a wake of rage behind. That would’ve never happened in my Ford Fusion with its blind spot detectors. No way.
A second similar incident occurred in Marion, Ohio, a somewhat larger town where I was driving on unfamiliar streets. Again, these were city streets with stop lights on every corner. Low -speed driving was the norm. But my blind-spot issue once again almost caused a collision. There I was waiting at a red light listening to a book on cd when I was accosted by a young woman pounding on the driver’s side window of my car. “You cut me Off,” the red-faced woman was shouting. “You almost killed my baby.” She was shrieking now. I was at least a surprise by her sudden intrusion into my life and she had been by my blind traffic maneuver. As a mother myself I was not immune to her mama- bear protective instincts. But I wondered if she had properly secured her baby in a child safety seat. And how safe was it for her to leave her car and child unattended in the middle of traffic? Using my softest voice and meekest smile, I apologize profusely. “Blindspot. Didn’t see you. So sorry.” All the while I was praying for the light to turn green.
None of this would’ve happened if I’d had my my Ford Fusion with its amazing blind-spot detectors. Once I bought my Fusion it was my favorite car ever. Sunroof. leather seats. Hybrid technology. And of course, the blind-spot detectors. But the air conditioner was dead. I had to trade it in, and I didn’t want to pay mega bucks for a new car. Eventually, I settled on a late model Ford Escape, a small SUV. It’s a serviceable car, easy for a 70-year-old woman to get in and out of. The rear hatch opens with a quick kick and it has leather seats and lots of electronics. But no blind-spot detectors.
Oh, I know it has those bug-eye mirrors set in the side mirrors that are supposed to help the driver monitor the blind spot. They’re supposed to be almost as good. Almost. What kind of word is that? It tells me I’m almost causing fender bender. I’m almost triggering another explosion of road rage. I almost want to just leave the car in the garage.

Put to Bed

Know Your Limits