Monday, April 18, 2011

The scariest ride you’ll ever take

I’m lucky to have a few unique hobbies that occupy massive amounts of my free time. One of these is racing cars, specifically drag racing. In its simplest form drag racing is two cars racing side-by-side on a straight-line track. You start from a dead stop and try to reach maximum speed over a fixed distance. Participating in the sport of drag racing gives me the chance to combine several loves – old muscle cars, working on cars, solving problems (using your brain to figure out how to make the car run faster, more consistently and more reliably) and of course a little adrenaline rush from driving fast.

Over my racing “career” I’ve had the opportunity to drive a wide variety of cars, some that were incredibly fast, some that were incredibly scary and some that were a mix of both. I’ve endured a high-speed accident and more than a few close calls on the track.

I was once driving an open-cockpit dragster at 165 m.p.h. when the wind caught my helmet and lifted it up over my eyes, leaving me hurtling down the track approaching 170 m.p.h. “blind.” I’ve had a car on two wheels on more than one occasion and sadly put my dad’s championship winning 1969 Chevy Nova head first into the wall at 135 m.p.h. in a beautiful display of sparks and smoke (don’t worry I wasn’t hurt).

Needless to say I’ve had some dicey moments driving a car, but nothing could prepare me for the sheer terror I experienced behind the wheel of my wife’s Honda CRV on March 5th, 2011 - the day we took baby Elliot home from the hospital.

That morning I was filled with excitement about taking our new bundle of joy home. One of our awesome baby shower gifts was a keyfit car-seat system whose base is anchored to the vehicle seat, and the baby carrier easily pops in and out. I headed down to the Perot parking garage at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas to retrieve the carrier that little Elliot would be riding in.

I decided at that point it wouldn’t hurt to check the tightness of the base that I’d attached to the actual car seat one last time (I’d checked it about five times already in the last two days). I took my position on the back seat with my knee on the base, pulling on that tightening strap so hard that I was moments away from a hernia. It was then that I noticed the man in the space next to me (whom I’d been completely oblivious to) would really like to get out of his car but can’t because I‘ve been blocking him in for the last five minutes with my wide-open door. It was starting to occur to me that this first trip home was a big deal and I needed to get focused.

After our discharge from the hospital, we strapped Elliot in and headed out. We weren’t even out of the parking garage yet when I realized that this was going to be unlike any trip I’d ever taken. My hands were sweating, despite the air being turned down to full blast (much to the chagrin of the new mommy in the back seat), and I was literally stopping at every corner to do a 360 degree survey of the area to make sure there were no cars anywhere near us. I’ve competed in some huge races in the middle of the Texas summer, and I don’t think I ever sweated this much.

Once we pulled out on the road, I had several route options to get home. I immediately discarded anything that would take us near a highway and instead opted for surface streets. I figured this was the safest bet because low speed = safety – right? I may be exaggerating a little, but I don’t think there have ever been more cars on Hillcrest Road at 2:00 PM on a Saturday afternoon. Everyone seemed to be out to get me or at least see how close they could get to me without actually touching. Perhaps they didn’t like the fact that I was slowing to a near stop at every green light just to make certain no one was about to run a red light. Who knows?

Despite my terror, we had an uneventful trip home, but it makes me laugh at what a microcosm that first drive home is for being a new parent. That first day with a new baby, everything is so intense, so dramatic. Every feeding and diaper change must be executed to perfection, and every strange noise or expression must be researched and analyzed. Now by the 6th week we’re old pros; we’re well versed in the concepts of the 5-second rule and “good enough.” Heck, Elliot and I even got Mom’s car up on two wheels the other day (just kidding).

Jordan Echols is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and new Dad to Elliot born in March.

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