Saturday, August 16, 2008

Close calls

I was doing some editing and proofreading a day or two ago, and came across a sentence where the author was describing his closest brush with death.

It reminded me of when I was 17 years old. I was driving my parents' car to Marquette, some 42 miles to the west. I don't recall my reason for going.

Traffic is normally very light in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and I would say that it was not a bit unusual at that time to see no more than four vehicles in either direction the entire trip.

For the most part, the highway is flat and travels parallel to Lake Superior. There are a few places, however, where the road goes around curves and up and down pretty good-sized hills. Double yellow lines, indicating no passing zones, predominate in these areas.

I was coming around one of these curves, intending to continue on up a hill, when I saw a fully-loaded logging truck in my lane, passing another truck illegally and coming right at me at 60+ mph.

There was only one choice to make and a split second to actually do it. I went off of the road. It was either that or hit one or the other truck head-on. There were no nice broad shoulders in these spots, only steep embankments. Ten feet or so down the embankment was a wire fence that, supposedly, would prevent one's vehicle from continuing on downward into the ravine.

Well, the logging truck roared past me. Somehow or another, I was able to keep the car under control and not go so far as to hit the fence. I kept my foot off of the brake the whole time and concentrated, with both hands gripped tightly to the wheel, on maintaining control.

I did, got back on the road, and continued my journey. That was my closest call ever! I don't think I told my folks about it, either.

In all of my nearly eighteen years of taxicab driving, when I put 1,000 miles each week on the car and where I was witness to a lot of accidents, this one incident from 54 years ago stands out in my mind as potentially the most deadly.

You know, as soon as I make a statement like that, it seems, I think of another. Well, there was one other, and it occurred when I was driving a taxi.

I was sitting on Bellaire, heading west, stopped at a red light at Beltway 8 along with other vehicles. I was going home. Five lanes of traffic, the two farthest left for left-hand turns (I was in the 2nd from left) and three others for continuing straight.

I was first in my lane. There were vehicles behind me. There was a vehicle to my left that was first in his lane. The same to the right. Other vehicles behind them.

The light turned green. Nobody moved, which was strange enough in itself, but -- stranger still -- nobody honked, either! Another couple of seconds passed. Still no movement, no horn-honking, nothing!!

Then, going northbound on the feeder, came this huMONgous 18-wheeler just barreling through a light that had long since turned red. I don't know how fast he was actually going, but it had to have been well over 70mph!

After he had cleared the intersection, it took all of us a while to tentatively take our feet off of our collective brakes and inch ahead. I think that, if any one of us had tried to accelerate when the light initially turned green (or even a few seconds afterwards), that people would still be finding bits and pieces of body and car parts!

None of us stopped to exchange information or offer a prayer, but I swear by all that's Holy that the strong arm of God came down and saved us all that day!


whalechaser said...

These two stories were pretty scary and they certainly give you reason to believe we really ARE special in the eyes of God.
I once had a similar experience a few years ago. At a T intersection with a traffic light for those needing to go right or left (in my case left). The light turned green (and in this spot it is green for only 2 to 3 cars)I was first and usually quick to hit the gas...which I did, but the car hesitated..never happened before or after...just long enough for a semi to go barreling through!
The guy came from out of nowhere and I surely would have been gone instantly, I pressed the gas a second time, and off I went. Just like that. Live or Die, it happened in a flicker. Wow.

Tammy said...

Amazing stories by both you and Whalechaser.

Every now and then when I'm driving, it feels like my car is doing it's own thing (swerving a bit, slowing down, speeding up, whatever), and not what I want, and I wonder if that was God's hand in keeping us from a deadly accident.

Michael said...

I've heard a lot of close-call stories, but I don't recall one in which everyone hesitated at the same time. That is definitely "group mind".