Well, I nearly died today.
I was driving on a winding one lane road, when a silver mid-2000′s Dodge Ram Club Cab broke through the double yellow, and swerved halfway into my lane.
My car was a 7 year old Toyota Corolla, and if it weren’t for a last split-second swerve, I would have been dead. No question about it.
The surprising thing about the experience was my lack of a frazzled state immediately afterwards. I drove a couple hundred feet more, thanked God, did a U-turn at the nearby precinct headquarters, and dialed 911.
For all I knew it could have been anything that caused the near death experience. Texting, drugs, a spilled drink, a medical emergency… anything. But I surely wasn’t going to let that vehicle remain on the road without police involvement.
I caught up with the truck enough to see it turn right onto a dead end street and stayed on the phone with the dispatcher for about 10 more minutes. The driver stayed in the car the entire time. No words between us. Nothing but me and a dispatcher, who told me that three police cars were already on their way. I kept the Corolla a good 700 feet away on the top of a large hill. I wasn’t going to play hero. But at the same time, I was betting that Atlanta’s 95 degree weather with 90% humidity would discourage the driver from coming out of his car.
Sure enough, he just stayed where he was at.
Once the police showed up, I told them the story I just told you. They confronted what turned out to be a guy who had sweated out of his shirt. He was animate, allegedly he was working on the home where he was parked, and it took a good five minutes or so before the police were willing to let him speak with me.
“I’m sorry. I just spilled my drink and I know I crossed that yellow line. I’m really sorry.”
“I just wanted to make sure you weren’t impaired, or texting, or something like that.”
We shook hands, and it seemed like every 15 to 20 seconds, he was apologizing and trying to shake my hand again. I wish I had told one of the police officers to corroborate the spilled drink and other parts of his story. They don’t add up now. But to be honest, all I was thinking then was that my family could have experienced the worst day of our collective lives. His alibi was not my concern.
I thanked the officers and got the hell out of there. And now, well, I’m a bit frazzled. A neverending march of random questions goes through your mind when you experience something like this.
Do I stop driving compacts? Do I share what happened with my family? There’s a life lesson here, and I’m going to have to dwell on the ramifications for quite a while.
I’ve experienced plenty of close calls before. When I worked the Atlanta auction circuit I used to drive over 40,000 miles a year through three states as a ringman, and later, an auctioneer. But I never experienced anything quite like this in terms of a split second difference between life and death. A 40 mph head on would have made me a corpse, and my family is sometimes the only damn thing I give a shit about in this world. I would rather endure the trials of Job than to leave them in such a terrible state.
This is why I like the idea of self-driving cars and crash avoidance systems in general. I love cars, but if I had to make a deal with an angel and trade in my keys for the chance to simply stay on this Earth and be with my family, I would pack up our belongings and move away from the ex-urbs of Atlanta in a millisecond. New York City, Amsterdam, Costa Rica. Anywhere I could walk would be fine with me.
I need to get some perspective here folks, and maybe a good story or two would be the right prescription. So let me ask you, what was your closest call? More importantly, what impact did it have on the future of your driving?