Every morning at precisely 5:42 a.m. like clockwork, the same car with only one headlight headed towards me in the dark on my morning run.
I called the local police department daily to let them know about it, thinking they would take the appropriate corrective action. After more than two weeks the switchboard operator – who now knew me by name – asked me why the car with only headlight bothered me so much.
That was the wrong thing to ask.
When I was in high school, my friends and I met every morning at the entrance to our subdivision to wait for the school bus. One morning two of my classmates, both of them 16-year old sophomores decided to walk a half-mile down two-lane Mayport Road to catch a ride to school with a senior who had her own car. They never made it to school that day.
After school on the bus ride home, I saw an area on Mayport Road not far from my subdivision that was marked off with yellow caution tape, the kind used to identify a crime scene. It was later that night that we heard the news: Lisa, one of those two sophomores was struck and killed by a hit and run driver.
Here’s what happened, according to the friend who was with her that morning. As they were walking along the shoulder on the right side of Mayport Road, Lisa noticed her shoe was untied. She glanced behind her to see if there were any cars approaching and all she saw was one headlight. She mentioned to her friend a motorcycle was approaching, a safe assumption since the beam of the headlight was squarely in the middle of the lane.
But it wasn’t a motorcycle, but a truck with only the left headlight operating properly. The right-side headlight – and the rest of the black truck – weren’t visible in the early morning dark. Since the left headlight was in the center of the lane, almost half of the speeding truck was over the white stripe running along the shoulder of the road.
That was precisely where Lisa was bending over to tie her shoe. She never saw what hit her. Her friend happened to look up to catch the taillights of the truck as it sped off into the distance. The truck never bothered to slow down. Incidentally both of the truck’s taillights were working, as was the light illuminating the numerals on the license plate. Lisa’s friend had no trouble reciting them to the police when they arrived.
Over 40 years later things are still pretty much as I would have expected. It’s still cooler to catch a ride to school in a car rather than ride the bus. My old subdivision still exists right along Mayport Road. And cars still need two functioning headlights.
But I never expected that Lisa wouldn’t still be around, swapping stories about our grandchildren and reminiscing about the good old days at Fletcher Senior High.
The next time you notice a car with only one headlight do me a favor: remember Lisa.
Scott Ludwig lives, runs and writes in Senoia with his wife Cindy, three cats and never enough visits from his grandson Krischan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org