On September 21, I was driving home from delivering a presentation on Leadership and the Power of Acknowledgment to Thomson Reuters, for their Professional Development Day. I had been told by numerous participants that the talk had already had life and work altering effects on them. I was basking in the glow I always get when that happens, and was treating myself to a “reading” of a great “page turner” of an audio book as I headed home from the city.
So there I am, driving along the Palisades Interstate Parkway, deeply immersed in what was going to happen next in my book, when I suddenly noticed the flashing lights and loud siren of a police car behind me. That couldn’t be for me, I thought, glancing at my speedometer, which showed a safe and innocent 55 MPH. Maybe it was a broken tail light? Who knew, but I did know after a short time that I was the “intended” recipient of this notification. So I pulled over, and a police officer came to the passenger side of my car. I opened my window, and in a very nice manner, Officer Zyskowski (I later called the Palisades Interstate Parkway Police to find out his name) asked me how I was doing. “Fine!” I said enthusiastically. He then proceeded to ask me a series of questions – where I had been (okay, so I bragged a bit about the presentation I had just delivered, the book I wrote, etc., etc.), and that I was headed home. He continued to ask me questions about what I had been doing previously, even asking me some of the same questions more than once. Hmmm…I wondered. What was this about? And then he let me “have it” in the nicest of ways. “Were you aware of the fact that you were weaving in and out of your lane?” Uh, oh! That was one big “no” for me. He then proceeded to tell me that he had been very concerned, watching me weave, and was wondering if I had been driving “under the influence.” I was a bit shocked to discover that I had been weaving, so engrossed had I been in my book. So I confessed to distracted driving, and committed – both to him and to myself – to not let that happen again. I even shut off the audio book, for that night, which nearly killed me due to where I was left hanging in the plot. But I deserved to be kept in suspense.
Officer Zyskowski told me that he had thought about having me get out and walk to prove that I was sober, and (I am guessing) to use a breathalyzer, but based on our conversation and my explanation of my weaving, he would let me continue on my way, and told me to have a nice rest of the evening. No ticket, no blame, no attack. Just a committed, caring officer’s response to a driver on the sometimes bumpy road of life. Office Zyskowski, I want to publically acknowledge you for the lovely, caring way you dealt with my actions. I learned a great deal from you about distracted driving and realize that even an audio book can qualify. I’m not saying I am giving them up, but I am listening to them in a very different manner. And that is thanks to you!
So to Officer Zyskowski, who used concern and caring rather than automatic punishment as a way to achieve his organization’s ultimate goals, I say to you, “Thanks! I needed that!”