It almost happened today while on a thousand mile drive to Florida: that life-flashing-before-one’s-eyes moment. Only it did not happen. It could not happen. Because I was at the wheel and too preoccupied for any sort of retrospective.
Instead of an actual life review experience, I did have an instantaneous recollection of two past near-accidents. One had forced me into a three-lane spin out, the other had forced me off the road onto a narrow shoulder. More through muscle memory than imagery, I could remember how I felt during the other near-impact moments. Frankly what happened back then shouldn’t have happened. There was no explanation as to why or how I was left unscathed. Somehow I had known what to do, but I cannot tell you what actually took place nor how I managed to escape the grim reaper, either time.
Perhaps they were dress rehearsals for what transpired today.
Today was similar to the other times, yet not. This time I had passengers, my husband and our cat. It was my turn to drive and I had gone about fifty miles on I-95. We were chatting away, when I saw it. Right there, inches away from the passenger door. Oblivious to our car, a panel truck was careening towards us, moving left from the center lane to our lane. Even though we were driving sixty-five MPH, it felt like things were moving in slow motion. I braked and shifted over to the shoulder, collision narrowly avoided. With incredible relief we sat there to catch our breath and gather ourselves. All three of us.
Looking across the highway, we noticed that the truck had stopped on the other side of the highway. Mouthing his apologies, the driver’s face looked as stunned as ours. He must have needed a breather as well.
Within minutes, we saw the flashing lights of a state trooper pulling in behind us. The kind and concerned officer asked if we were okay and said that he had been called to the scene of an accident at our mile marker. We explained that there had not been any contact and what had transpired wasn’t an accident. Passing cars must have called it in, assuming there had been an actual collision. Indeed it must have looked like one. And it was then that we realized we were not the only terrified people this morning.
Close calls, not just while driving, happen all the time. They catch us off guard but give us pause and gratitude after the fact. Maybe they are actually a learning moment for us to glean experience for the future. Not only for those in the midst of the experience, but for the observers as well.