Near-Life Experiences

I usually get up for work sometime between five and six in the morning, or enough time to work up a sweat, take a shower, read news and eat some toaster fodder before heading out. This morning I fiddled with the alarm after getting up (yeah, always a bad idea), and ended up sleeping until 6:30. After an abbreviated shower, food, and news session, I ended up leaving a little late for work.

Along the way, there are two stretches where one can drive somewhat fast. Long flat stretches with no police. Coming off of one of those stretches, I did a rolling stop at an intersection and turned ahead of a large pickup truck (it’s farm country, so every other vehicle is a large pickup truck). It would be a close call, but my car can accelerate with the quickness, so I just gunned it.

I had it up to 55mph (90kph) when he swerved a little to the left; I was already deep on the gas, so it was up to about 65 by the time he was actually passing. Look up ahead, and there’s a black SUV coming the other way.

Break, swerve right, into the ditch at around 60. Slowing down fast in the soft earth, the back end starts to come out a little, get that spin under control. Telephone poll on the right, still slowing down. Corner-glance off the poll at around 20, there’s a dirt entrance filled into the ditch just ahead of that. Slam into that, probably catch a little air and come back down, notice I’m still in the mud and slowing down fast, turn back towards the road and hit the gas again.

Bounce back onto the road, and slowly getting things back under control. Start laughing as I salute a shocked guy in what looked like a Navy cap who was walking his dog in the ditch about 30 yards ahead of where I finally got it back on the road. Seemed like the thing to do.

Pull up to the next intersection, behind the truck in question, still laughing. He’s stopped and gotten out of his truck. I think, briefly, that it was nice of him to stop and see if I was alright, having quite literally run me off the road.

It’s a comforting thought while it lasts, at least.

He starts yelling at me as he approaches the car—and I’m not going to be stupid enough to get out or turn the car off.

Truck Guy Why did you pull out in front of me!?
Me I thought I could make it, why didn’t you slow down!?
TG You blew through the stop sign and cut out in front of me!
Me No, I rolled through the stop sign [coming off one of the straightaway], and I thought I could make it! You ran me into the ditch!
TG I was going 70!
Me When you passed me, I was going the limit [55—this went back and forth for a while]; I didn’t think you were going that fast.
TG If you had stopped you would’ve known I was!
Me Look, I’m a grown-ass man, I don’t need you to lecture me like my dad.
TG You nearly killed yourself running into a telephone pole!
Me [Square in the eye] Yeah, and it’s my life to throw away, isn’t it [It’s an alpha male, “don’t ever cross someone who’s not afraid of dyin’,” setting-of-the-ground rules thing].
Me Look, I know it was stupid as hell to try and make that turn, I get it. I ended up in the ditch over it, remember?
TG Alright, well, I’m sorry you ended up in the ditch over this, I just didn’t want you to think I had run you off the road.
Me Okay, and I’m sorry for cutting out in front of you.

(At some point in there, I mentioned that I didn’t “have time for that crap; I have to get to work,” so it’s not a transcript or anything.)

Anyways, it’s pretty evident that he was scared that I was going to die over our collective dumb asses, and needed to rant that out of his system. And he wasn’t wrong: it was my gamble that started it, and even though he didn’t take the opportunity to stop it, when it didn’t pay off it’s my fault. I’m OK with that.

Of course, I had just ended up in a ditch, taken air, hit a telephone pole, nearly hit some guy walking his dog, and was worried about my car making it to work. There isn’t a man on this earth who will submit to a lecture after some crazy shit like that. That’s what the whole alpha-establishment thing was about. I don’t think I honestly could’ve died. It’s possible, of course, but I was wearing my seat-belt, have airbags, and the only real danger was hitting the telephone poles head-on at slower speeds. It would’ve sucked, but not to a game-over level.

So, lessons learned? Well, come to a complete stop and don’t try to make it when you don’t have enough time to adequately judge the window. Also, there’s a threshold of stress, and on the way back down after crossing it, people (or at least I) just laugh—and those who don’t experience the same level (or type—e.g. “direct” instead of “concern”) stress may get pissed at you for doing so. A minor victory against Grim? I’ll celebrate it, thanks.

Of course, I will also drive carefully all the way home 🙂