My encounter with a bridge under troubled water

“That they might have joy” column by Jacki Wood

A couple of months ago, I had to make an emergency trip home to Jamesport from work here in Maryville. If you’ve ever driven from here to there, you know there’s no straight or easy way to get there. And there are several different routes you can take.

We live out in the country, about 10 miles south of town, so I usually go what I call the “back way” or through the Grand River bottoms and several miles of gravel (er, dirt) roads because it cuts off about 15 minutes of drive time.

But if it’s been raining, I usually take a longer route because the bottoms can get really muddy and even flooded.

On this particular day, my head wasn’t on quite straight, though, thinking about what was happening at home and trying to get there as soon as possible. Although it was sunny, it hadn’t occurred to me that it had been raining the past three days.

So I’m driving along, I hit the gravel road and I realize what I’ve done.

At first, it was no big deal. There was standing water along both sides of the road, but it was still drivable. The closer I got to the river, though, the more the water was seeping toward the center, and the muddier it got. It was a real mess. The car was sliding back and forth and I was trying to keep it in the center.

I came to a spot in the road that goes down hill and then comes back up a little to a small bridge. It was looking really soggy at the bottom, so I increased my speed, managed through it and made it up and onto the bridge, where I abruptly came to a stop.

Just beyond the bridge, the road was washed out by running water.

The first thing that crossed my mind was a news report I saw on TV once where an Arizona driver moved a blockade and drove through flooded water, got stuck and had to get rescued. Such incidents, the report said, had prompted the state to pass the “Stupid Motorist Law” to prosecute people who knowingly do something stupid like that.

While there was no sign or blockade warning me that the road was flooded, and I hadn’t knowingly gotten myself into this predicament, there I sat, stuck on a bridge, in the middle of nowhere.

Did I want to become one of those stupid motorists? Well, no, but my options were to either try to proceed through it or back up.

But that was impossible. There was literally nowhere to turn around and I knew I couldn’t put it in reverse and back up through the miles of mud I had just driven through.

Now let me interject here about the water that was staring me in the face — we’re not talking about two feet of water rushing by and probably not even six inches, but still, it was running across the road. And they always say to not drive through flood water, no matter what.

So, I looked behind me. I looked in front of me. I’m stranded there on this bridge, several miles still from home, all alone, no houses anywhere, just fields and mud and water, wondering what I should do. I had made a mistake in the beginning by choosing this path home, and now that I was there, I didn’t want to make another one.

So I looked again. Behind me. In front of me. My gut said continue on.

And so I did.

I started down the hill toward the water, trying to travel at just the right speed, praying “please don’t let me get stuck, please don’t let me be the ‘stupid motorist’ character in this story, please just let me get home.”

Well, if I had gotten stuck, I probably would be too embarrassed to share the story and portray myself as the stupid driver, although I probably am still doing that.

I made it through that rough spot with no other problems down the road and eventually made it home to my family.

The experience taught me many things. There’s the obvious lesson of don’t drive through running water. If I had it to do over again, I don’t know that I would’ve made the same choice.

Then there’s also the idea of choosing to take the right path in life. Or keeping your head on straight amid a family crisis.

But it also got me to thinking about the mistakes we make.

I made a mistake that day in driving that path home. And I’m sure I made several other mistakes that day in my relationships, as a wife, a mother, a co-worker, a friend.

Was I too proud to admit I made any of those mistakes? Or to say I was sorry? Or that I got angry? Or that I spoke too soon when I didn’t have all of the facts and didn’t realize what implications might follow?

We’re human, we make mistakes every day, and looking back at this experience, I’ve learned that it’s not okay to just say, oh, well, it can’t be changed, and just let it go at that.

Stephen R. Covey, author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” said, “When you make a mistake, admit it, correct it, and learn from it / immediately.”

So here goes…my name is Jacki, I’m a stupid motorist…and I’m learning from it.

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