Epic Journey

Some 13-year-old kid in Ottawa stole his foster parents’ car and went on a joyride to Cornwall, 160 kilometres away.  He got halfway there, got spooked by the sight of police cars, and then attracted their attention by speeding away.  Smoooooth.  This reminds me of a story.

In his youth, a friend of mine once took his parents’ car out for a joyride, also at an age too junior to get a driver’s licence.  His mom and dad were out with friends and had left the family vehicle at home.  But my friend could barely see over the steering wheel (even sitting on couple of phone books) and his nascent adventure immediately attracted the attention of John Law.  Who then pulled him over and kindly inquired what he was up to.

Well my friend is no slouch and concocts a story about sitting quietly at home when suddenly he is set upon by two burly fellas who burst through the unlocked side door.  Fearing for his life, my friend had to get away as far and as fast as possible, so he bolted for the front door, grabbed the keys on the way out, and jumped in the car.  Then he sped off and encountered this very cruiser from the Metropolitan Toronto Police.

The police took him to the station and got in touch with his mom and dad, who were quite concerned, naturally.  At least until they got the police’s side of the story.

When the family reaches home, his dad—a sharp-witted fighter pilot for the Canadian Forces—asks my friend to go over the details again.  Sitting comfortably in the dining room, my friend carefully relates his story in great detail, getting to the part about racing out the door with keys in hand.  “And I suppose you grabbed THIS on the way out!” interrupts dad, slamming the phone book down on the dining room table. 

So here’s my advice to Ottawa Joyrider and others who will follow in his footsteps.  If you’re going to engage in a dauntless odyssey whose retelling will Astound your Peers and Future Kids, the first thing you do is don’t chicken out.  Get to the freaking objective.  There is no glory in half-done deeds.  As Lord Nelson once said, “The bravest man feels an anxiety ‘circa praecordia’ as he enters the battle, but he dreads disgrace more.”1

1  Locker’s Greenwich Gallery, article “Torrington.”  As quoted in The Life of Nelson, Vol. II, by Alfred Thayer Mahan.

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