I’ve decided I’m finally going to come clean. I’m the guy that ran over your lunch box in April of 1974. Maybe it was the spring of 1975, I’m not really sure, but I know you’ve been looking for me ever since. I was the driver of the white Ford sedan with the Mountain Bell logo on both doors and the 800 number in the back that told you to call if you had a problem with my driving. I got away clean, so I guess you didn’t get the number. I’m guessing you were eight or nine at the time. I saw you clearly in the rear view mirror.
To be honest, which I clearly couldn’t be, since I didn’t stop and at least give you lunch money or even apologize for accidentally flattening your metal lunch box, I didn’t mean to do it, and I didn’t even see it. I knew I ran over something though and then I saw you run over to your crushed lunch box and hold it up in disbelief. Just so you know, I can still see it. It’s haunted me for a lot of years.
Let me explain. I was given the responsibility to collect the pay phone route once a week after the person that had been doing it resigned. They decided not to replace him, and instead give me the responsibility. It got me out of the office once a week, so I was more than happy to accept. The job involved driving the company car, which required you to take a “Defensive Driving” class that was a full day at company headquarters in Cheyenne. The manager got me scheduled for the class, and I headed out from Laramie, Wyoming, where I worked in the business office, early in the morning. The drive to Cheyenne would take about an hour, and I really wasn’t sure where the hell I was going. It was pre-GPS, I didn’t have a “real” map, just a hand-drawn one, and I had never been to the “plant” building where the class was held. So I gave myself plenty of time to make the 8:00 start time in the event that I got lost.
And I did get lost. Which is why I was traveling down the rural gravel road, having missed the turn a quarter-mile back. I realized I had missed the turn , but I couldn’t find anywhere to turn around, and then I saw the bus stop turnout. There were some kids there, standing off to the side, waiting for the bus, and I clearly had enough room to make a turn and head back the other direction. That’s when I saw you running toward the car, and I had no idea what you were doing. Then I scored the direct hit on the lunch box and sped off down the gravel road, hoping, but worried none-the-less, that you weren’t quick enough to get the number off the trunk of the car. I worried all day. I was going to a defensive driving class to get my company permit, and a call from your mother or father, would have put the kibosh on that for sure. After eight hours of watching movies, practicing reaction times, driving a company van around town verbally describing all the safe things I was doing while I propelled the vehicle in traffic, would have been for nothing. I wouldn’t get my company permit because I totaled a lunch box that morning on my way to class.
So, almost forty years later, I’m reaching out to you, sort of. In retrospect, you shouldn’t have put the lunch box down in the first place. You should have protected it better. I still believe that you ate lunch that day. I’m certain you were able to pry the box open and get your lunch out of there. You must have been resourceful enough for that. But I’m guessing you got in trouble when you brought the lunch box home and explained to your mother what horrible thing had happened at the bus stop that morning. The crazed driver in the Mountain Bell car that didn’t even stop after he drove over, what I’m sure, was you’re favorite lunch box of all time. “The Fonz,” or the “Six Million Dollar Man,” or “Batman,” or “Laugh In.” Maybe you claimed you lost it, and had to take your lunch in a brown paper sack for a while. School was almost over the year anyway. Now that I think about it, I’m sure the “Thermos” bottle was toast, so the sack lunch wouldn’t have been that big of an issue for a few weeks.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not offering to pay for the lunch box. I didn’t have enough money on me at the time to buy myself lunch that day. I’m not offering that as an excuse, just thought I should state the facts. I’ve struggled with this, like I mentioned, for a long time, and I still don’t know what the “right” thing would have been to do. I really don’t. Should I have stopped and apologized and given you the two dollars I had in my wallet? Would it have made any difference?
Anyway, if you were the kid in Cheyenne, Wyoming that got his lunch box crushed by a white Ford sedan with that prominent bell and circle logo on both doors at the bus stop on that morning in April 1974 or 1975, that was me. At the very least, I’m sorry you left it lying where you did.