Dana Martin Writing

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A [mostly amusing] blog about travel, life, and TSA pat-downs
Dana Martin Writing

The Voice

It was an ordinary day, except that it wasn’t
No one else was in the car with me on the day it happened. Well, almost
no one.
I feel the need… 
Speeding on the freeway isn’t new to me. If I have the need for speed, blame it on either the
most popular Tom Cruise movie of the 1980s or my parents. My dad brought home a
shiny red Delorean in 1983, and I fell in love with the aerodynamics, the
compact, two-seat design, and the idea that it just looked fast. When I reached
16, my mom persuaded my dad to buy me a 300ZX (who does that?), and after
marriage, I graduated to a Mustang GT 5.0 that I drove until children started
coming along faster than billboards in Southern California. I willingly gave up
the zippy sports cars (and speeding tickets), and for the next seemingly
endless string of childbearing years, limped along in a Ford Aerostar full of
car seats, McDonald’s fries, and steaming old bottles of dried-up milk.
The Aerostar died just in time for children who could buckle their own
seatbelts and experience mortification that their mom drove a minivan, so it
was time for a new car. Sensible cars were for sensible girls, and I’m not sure
I can squeeze my impractical habits into the word sensible: my hair is long, I
procrastinate, speed, drink too much coffee, and I’m horrible at paying bills. I
relate well to Scarlett O’Hara’s breathless, “I can’t think about that right
now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” A sensible girl
would have chosen something with four doors, perhaps fuel efficiency, or at
least a neutral color. Not me. We replaced the nondescript burgundy jalopy
with a fiery red Thunderbird that screamed, “Hey cops! Watch this!” And they
did. A lot.
With the exception of the Aerostar years, I averaged exactly one
speeding ticket every 18 months—the window I had to maintain in order to
attend traffic school to remove the familiar infraction from my driving record
(shout-out to my State Farm agent Abir Pulskamp for continuing to insure me). When
we bought the T-bird, that practice resumed. My children accepted flashing
lights behind them as naturally as they did the blur of unheeded speed limit signs
along the road—just a part of life. So it isn’t a surprise that I was speeding
on the day it happened.
I was a harried mother of three. I’m still harried and a mother of
three, but instead of rushing from one school to another or between soccer and
baseball practices, I juggle writing schedules, dinners (why must these people
always need to EAT?), and my Halloween businesses that require year-round attention.
Now, at least, the kids are old enough to get their own food and can even make
Starbucks runs for me. But during these years, it was worse because No. One.
Else. Drove. Their father worked out of town, so the details and errands—such
as the one I was running the day it happened—were left to me.
This is how I imagine I looked.
At about 4:45 on a warm spring afternoon, I was speeding along the
highway trying to get a backseat full of trophies to my son’s end-of-the-season
baseball party. I was the team mom, so the responsibility rested fully on me,
and because I didn’t have the perspective then that I do now, I thought the
world would stop its rotation if I walked in 10 minutes late. It wasn’t that I
didn’t plan well; I just didn’t plan at all. I am what other writers call a “pantser,”
which means that my writing style is one who writes “by the seat of her pants.”  I am not a planner in writing or in life. I
don’t plan vacations, dinner, or schedules. I couldn’t be bothered, even, to
plan my own wedding. I fly, drive, write and live by the seat of my pants,
which, on this day, meant that I was running late.
With no one else in the car, I blasted the radio and was racing within ½
mile of my exit when it happened. The Voice. It was so loud that it muted every
other noise. When I heard it, I felt my mortality stand at attention:
Slow down, Dana. Your children need you.
I was startled by the voice in such a way that I obeyed the command and yanked my foot off the gas so quickly my knee slammed into the steering wheel. It
wasn’t a whisper, more the sound of one commanding from a place of authority—loud
and clear, a voice that brooks no argument. I would imagine that a gun-pointing
police officer ordering someone to “GET DOWN!” evokes the kind of authority I
heard in this voice. Quickly, my eyes darted to the dashboard, where I watched
the speedometer drop from 80 mph at the same pace my heart rate was increasing
to 180 bpm.
75 mph… What in the world was
My right foot hovered over the gas pedal as my car began its gradual
70 mph… Who was that speaking?
Both hands gripped the steering wheel and my eyes continued to watch my speed.
65 mph… Was that God?
I know people who’ve lived in faith far longer than I have, people who’ve
known God more intimately and had a much better relationship with Him than I
did at the time in my life when I was speeding and carrying on without
perspective. I was sure God had much better things to do (or people to help)
than talk to a person who had only a mild interest in Him.
I was wrong, and He decided to prove His love (and existence) to me
right there on northbound highway 99, right before the Olive Drive exit.
Five seconds after hearing The Voice and the moment my speedometer reached
55 mph, my tire blew out. As pieces of rubber cascaded around me and I could
hear my pretty red fender being torn to shreds, I used lessons taught in my
high school driver’s ed class to ease the car slowly off the freeway and was
able to hobble up the ramp safely into a fast food parking lot.
I’m no physicist, but I can presume that a car experiencing a blowout at
80 mph would react differently from one traveling 55. We’ve all seen rollover
accidents along freeways; many of them don’t turn out well.
Why me? I don’t know, but it changed me. Why would God care about one
silly, impractical girl when lifelong believers are suffering and in need of
His help? I can’t be sure of that, but I recently came across this scripture
that may explain it:
“If a man has a hundred
sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the
ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?”

(Matthew 18:12)
Ahhh, yes, He will. I was lost, but now I am found.
I wish I could say that I never speed anymore or that the experience made me a perfect Christian. I can’t say either of those things, but at least I can say that each bit of separated tire I see along the freeway and every chunk of rubber debris remind me to slow down in more ways than one. I remember The Voice as a testament to God loving all His sheep, even the ones who’ve gone astray.
Ya, He loves us that much.


  • Annis Cassells

    Lovely piece, Dana. So well-written, I could feel how you must have felt when you heard The Voice. Definitely a Chicken Soup candidate. xoA

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