Following the Rules in Serendipity

Following the Rules in Serendipity July 12, 2023


I’ve been back in Serendipity and driving for over a month now.

I switched my car insurance back in February, to a nice inexpensive company with a bright red logo. At the time, for reasons I’ve gone into ad nauseum, my car was a doorstop. I couldn’t drive anywhere. I didn’t know how long that situation would last, but it ended up lasting four months.

The insurance company offered me a discount on my premium if I downloaded an app onto my phone that graded my driving. If I carried my phone in the car with me, the phone would sense the movement in the car and grade me based on speed, braking, acceleration, handling corners, and distracted driving. If I got a good enough grade for the entire six-month period, I’d get a bigger discount next time. I was determined to be a good girl and get a good discount. I brought the phone with me every time I drove. I drove like a little nun for a month.

For a month I didn’t speed– which is nothing new, I never speed. My friends who have been in my car tease me over this. I am forever puttering down the country roads around Steubenville at 35 miles per hour on the paltry excuse that the signs say 35 miles per hour. Every so often an impatient Appalachian driver in a pickup truck will blast his horn, dart over the double yellow line, and speed away ahead of me, and I laugh at him. That’s just the way I am. I got 100% in speed. I handled corners very carefully because I do not speed, so I got 100% in handling corners. I only accelerated too quickly for the app’s liking once, in the construction out on the bridge on Route 22. There is a place where you have to stop at a stop sign on the on-ramp, crane your neck to see if there’s a semi truck barreling down the freeway at you, and then dart into the one lane of traffic quickly to get over the bridge. I didn’t want to be flattened by an oncoming car. I darted out as quickly as I could, and the app got cross with me. I got a 98% in acceleration.

The “distracted driving” criterion was a heavy cross to bear. I love my music. My idea of a relaxing evening is driving up and down country roads for an hour while singing along to Jesus Christ Superstar or another musical and imagining how I’d stage it if I were the director. My music is on my phone. I wouldn’t dream of LOOKING at my phone while driving even if it were legal; I set up a playlist before I leave and find a place to park when it’s time to queue up a new one.  But the sole criterion for the app was whether anything was happening on my phone. If the screen came on, if the phone played music or a podcast, if it went from one song to another on a playlist, it would dock my grade. I was a good girl. I drove without phone music. I sang my own musical sound track a capella. I got 100% in phone distraction.

The only real problem was hard braking. The app did not like my braking. The app does not come from Steubenville, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. It doesn’t understand what it’s like to drive over hills out in the country and down roads that corkscrew around to avoid the worst shale cliffs. You often don’t know what’s in front of you until it’s two feet away. A white-tailed deer or a child or a Charismatic with a tambourine could pop out in front of me at any minute. I could round a bend in a country road and come face to face with a speeding Appalachian pickup truck driver who went over the double yellow line to pass some fool going the speed limit. Such things happen. Of course I often have to brake quickly. I got a relatively bad grade in braking, but I’d still have passed braking if it were a course in college. It wouldn’t even have ruined my GPA.

For a whole month, I gave it my very best shot. I did everything I could to impress the app. I checked the app every evening, congratulated myself for my flawless speed, and angsted over the braking.

When they mailed me the information for the next six-month period this week, I got to see how I did. I opened the envelope like a child opening her report card.

For all my fretting, I got a five dollar discount.

Not five dollars a month, five dollars overall.

Being a good girl has never paid off for me, not once.

When I drove out to do my swimming at the lake this afternoon, I did not try to impress the app. I tried to do what was mine to do, which was to get to Raccoon Creek without getting pulled over or getting into a crash. I drove, slowly and safely with my eyes on the road, singing show tunes, braking as quickly as I needed to to avoid a disaster on the Steubenville Pike and PA 18. The wild turkeys on the Steubenville Pike are particularly bold this year.

I did not check my app this evening after I got home for the day.

I am going to blast my music when I drive to Columbus later this month.

I may just delete the thing from my phone entirely and not get a five dollar discount next time.

Maybe there’s a moral we can derive from this?

That’s what I do, right? I live my boring and irritating life, and then I tell you all about my day, and I tell you what I did, and I think about how it applies to my Christianity?

I think there was a time in my life when I wanted to earn God by scrupulously obsessing over rules, being a good girl who got everything right. Maybe I can let go of that and just keep my eyes on the road in front of me. I just can’t see any god worth my time keeping a record of all my little faults.

In any case, that’s what I’ve been up to lately.



image via Pixabay

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.



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