6:42 a.m. Aug 25, 2022. The day my wife, two daughters, and I almost died.
The story is not uncommon, sadly. And it is a simple one. I was at a light waiting to turn left across a four lane street. (This is what made the moment an almost moment.). The light changes green for me and I start my turn. I am moving across the lane closest to us, turning the wheel, when I noticed the lights of a semi truck flying toward us in the next lane. There was a minivan stopped at the light, but the truck wasn’t even slowing down. I slammed on the brakes and watch as the truck then cattle trailer streaked by in front of us. Our headlights reflecting back to us. I don’t think the driver even saw us.
It was dead silent in the car as I took a breath and continued across the intersection, headed to a “normal” day at school. We were that close to having everything change in our life. I am writing this at 7:18 a.m. and I can’t shake the weight of that almost moment.
I am still amped-up. Less than 30 minutes ago I was almost in a serious accident.
This is a diagram of downtown Hastings, which has a number of one way streets. Second street is a one way street (west to east) downtown. I had to drop off some mail at the post office this morning. I was heading south on Colorado, which is one way also. There is a light at the intersection of Second and Colorado, but it only faces the traffic flow of the one way streets. I was half a block away from the intersection when the light turned green. My lane has a green arrow (Colorado turns into two-way traffic after the light) and I slow down a little to make the turn. The roads are still snow packed from the snow storm on Sunday. That’s when I notice the headlights of a beer truck coming the wrong way on Second street, right where I am supposed to turn.
I wish I could tell you everything slowed down in my mind and I handled the situation like a hero. It didn’t. I remember everything now. But at that moment everything seemed to move into hyper drive.
I could see the truck’s left turn signal blinking on the hood of the truck. I remember thinking in my head, “What is he doing?” because he doesn’t seem to be stopping. There is no traffic light for him because he is traveling the wrong way on the Second street.
Decisions. Choices. Sometimes we see the results of our decisions immediately. Sometimes the effects of our decisions manifest themselves later; maybe a minute, a day, a year, or sometimes never. Making a decision can be a heavy responsibility… in fact every decision we make actually creates the life we live. And most of the time our decisions affects other people’s’ lives. I don’t know when the driver of the truck decided to drive down the wrong way. I don’t know why he chose to do it. Maybe he didn’t want to navigate the extra turns it takes to get through all the one way streets downtown, so he decided to take a short cut. What I do know is that his decisions and my decisions (to drop of the mail and drive down a certain street) was about to meet at the intersection of Second and Colorado.
I decide not to slam on the brakes to try to stop. The intersection was snow packed and helped me in this case. I was able to drift into the right lane on Second street. Missing the truck who also decided not to stop and turned left onto Colorado to drive away. I came to a stop to watch his taillights disappear at the corner of a building.
Decisions. Choices. Some of them seem more important than others. But in reality, every one of them matters. Everyone of them makes an impact in our lives. Makes an impact on other people’s’ lives. This morning I am glad that the driver’s choices and mine did not collide, literally.
I had a small moment of road rage yesterday. I was following this cement truck when it came to a stop at an intersection. No turn signal, right or left. The traffic was flowing on our left. As we sat there for a few seconds I figured the truck was turning left. I will admit to being hypersensitive to things like turn signals because my son has his learning permit and I notice everything lately regarding traffic issues.
The traffic cleared on the left. I waited for the truck to turn, but instead a purple mini-van that was in front of the truck turned left. I didn’t even see the mini-van until that moment. The cement truck then continued forward with me following along. I smirked at myself. I was quick to judge without seeing the whole picture. I then started to think about my college class.
For this first time in 14 years, I teach a lecture class on campus. I have a mix of high school students, freshman, and non-traditional students. The non-traditional group is a mix of students. I have students who are parents. Students that are trying college again. Students that have incredible stories. They amaze me with their dedication.
As I often do, I connected my small moment of road rage that was based on my bad judgment and the way we sometimes view others. We can’t always see the road the way they do.
The driver of the cement truck saw the purple mini-van. I did not. I was wrong to react the way I did (even if it was mostly in my head). We don’t see the road people have traveled to get to a certain point. But we will make a judgment (even if it is just in our head) that is misguided.
There is no easy solution to handling snap judgments, except maybe to realize we are all traveling a path. And that the view of the journey is unique to our perspective. To be honest enough to recognize that we can be wrong. We can’t always see the factors influencing another driver but we are all sharing the road together.