Odometer Update: 311,475
I was starting to feel pretty confident about my driving and then I ran into a stop sign. My confidence has been lowered, and I’m a little concerned with my fight or flight response. As I was skidding toward the stop sign atop a bed of shoulder sand – red octagon headed at my face – my reaction was something along the lines of, “uh..oh.” I think my mouth and eyes were wide open, as the windshield shattered. You’re supposed to see the window breaking; I think you’re supposed to flinch, or put an arm up. Not me, I just stared death dumbly in the face.
The police officer said, “You know you were really lucky, I’ve seen stop signs slice people in half.” First of all, what? He said it plural: “stop signs.” If stop signs are slicing people in half on the regular, how about we implement a safer stop sign material? Perhaps some sort of styrofoam or plastic polymer? If that’s true that I was indeed “lucky,” it means that moment could have been my end. Which means I’ve experienced the moment right before death, and it’s a pretty dumb moment. Something along the lines of, “Whoopsy!” I don’t even know if it was as much of a reaction as it was a blank moment of watching a stop sign quickly get larger.
What had happened was… a Beagle came trotting on to the road, and I hit the brakes, and the beagle just kind of stopped in the road as I came shaking and skidding toward it, so I swerved on to the shoulder to avoid the little guy, where unfortunately, there was a patch of sand. I don’t know why there was sand on the shoulder, but it was essentially a layer of blonde beach sand, which sent me skidding an extra 20-30 feet past my initial projection.
Being a good Samaritan and Beagle life-preserver, I thought the cop would be pleased with my contribution to society: “Hey, good work saving that dog, too bad about your car and all that money you’re gonna have to spend on the deductible.” Instead he said, “Now, you know you’re at fault for this.” I was thinking, “Um, sand? Beagle?” He continued, “It’s illegal to swerve out of your lane. In the future you have to just hit the dog.”
Is there really a law written that says, “you have to hit a dog”? He said even if it’s a deer, you have to brake in your own lane and hit the deer. Surely there’s a limit to what you’re legally not allowed to swerve from. Rhinoceros? Pack of wolves? Pack of flaming wolves? I did some Googling and couldn’t find an answer on the specifics of this “no-swerve” law, so if there are any advanced driver’s ed nerds who want to take a crack at the legality, please hit me back with your findings.
I’m not sure exactly what I can take from this. On the one hand, I now know not to swerve, but at the same time, I’ve successfully swerved from dozens of animals in the past. I understand that you could swerve and someone could die, but I also have eyeballs, and if there is a person or car anywhere in the shoulder, I would probably make a mental note of that before swerving. It’s not like I would just see a beagle and then swerve blindly off a cliff.
I suppose the bigger lesson is to appreciate life, given that moment could have been it. You’re driving down the highway listening to Adele, then beagle, then stop sign, then heaven (Ah shit, am I in heaven? Dammit. Guess I hould have hit that beagle). I do have an increased sense of appreciation, but at the same time the act of appreciating life is easier said than done. Do you wake up each morning and exclaim, “I’m so thankful to be alive!” Or do you call your parents five times a day? Or do you do more of the things on your bucket list and fall further in to debt? Is a persistent and gnawing feeling of “I could be dead right now” at all positive? There is a fine line between feeling lucky to be alive and the paralyzing fear of death.
There’s one type of person who feels lucky to be alive so he goes sky-diving, and there’s the other who feels the same way so he stays in bed all day wearing a helmet. I’d prefer not to sky-dive, or wear a bed helmet, which puts me right back to where I was before the accident, but with a new awareness of the no-swerve law, and a new windshield.