5.33 A Near Accident

Last week, I was on my way to the airport very early in the morning. I wasn’t running late, but still, you can’t seem to get to the airport early enough these days. Delays, security, long lines. There wasn’t much traffic and I was speeding along the Gardiner Expressway at a fair clip. Driving too fast, really, but I was far enough away from the car ahead of me. I’m definitely not a morning person and maybe shouldn’t be behind the wheel so early. The brake lights of the car ahead of me flicked on, but traffic was light. Figured this was someone just hitting the brakes to slow down a bit. My reflexes were perhaps a little off - the morning thing - and it took a few seconds to realize the car ahead of me was not slowing down slightly, but coming to a dead stop.

I’ve never been in an accident - I’m currently knocking some wood as I write this - except for one minor fender bender over ten years ago (which wasn’t my fault). Sure, I’ve avoided several accidents because the drivers in this city are a little crazy. Hell, drivers in every city are probably a little crazy. When you step into a car, you’re driving a death machine, basically. That being said, I’ve had some close calls, but nothing like this.

Even with my winter tires (which I think are a bit of a racket), when I slammed on the brakes, the car was not stopping and started swerving. I didn’t even look, couldn’t look to the lane on my right side. I just hoped that there was no one beside me. I swerved to the right, around the car in front of me, and waited to hear that awful sound of two cars crashing. Movies completely misrepresent this. There is no big crash, nothing dramatic, just a dull, thud of our death machines smashing into each other.

There was no crash. There was no car in the right lane. After swerving into the right lane, I came to a stop right beside the car that was formally ahead of me. We looked at each other, there was no anger emitting from the other driver, just a collective releasing of breath that the worst didn’t happen. I didn’t slam into his back fender.

Funny how your body reacts to fear and near misses. Adrenaline pumped into my system, I could feel my body contorting, becoming smaller in an attempt to protect myself.

After sitting on the road for a few seconds, the cars started moving again and I moved with them. My hands immediately started shaking and I became slightly short of breath. I reached for the coffee that I had with me, but my hands were just shaking too damn much. My life didn’t flash in front of my eyes when I slammed on those brakes and swerved into the right lane, hoping no one was there. Does this actually happen? Maybe your brain knows that you are going to die, like is certain that it is inevitable and so releases these pent up thoughts that form a kaleidoscope of memories.

After driving for a few more minutes, something did happen. First, I drove under the speed limit in the middle lane away from the cars speeding past me. Second, I realized there was no rush to get to the airport. Third, I did think about some specific memories. Perhaps this was better than my life flashing before my eyes because I got to sit with these memories for a while, at least until I arrived at the airport.

I thought about my family and how they have really done nothing except support me through every crazy ridiculous decision I’ve made. They’ve supported me with love and I consider myself eternally lucky for this love. I thought about the few women that I’ve shared my life with, the ones that I really tried to open up to - with varying degrees of success. With a few of these people, I really did feel an unspoken love between us, one that cannot be quantified and even though they are all gone, I still felt grateful they were in my life. I thought about my friends - old and new - and how I would miss them. And I thought something strange, something that I haven’t felt before, I thought that perhaps all these people would also miss me. That perhaps I have impacted their life as they have mine. I thought of all these people, all these amazing people in my life and I felt nothing but gratitude for how things have unfolded. How stupid of me not to respect this love, this gratitude.

My hands shook all the way to the airport. Maybe we need a daily dose of near-death experiences to appreciate it all? Or maybe I should just slow the fuck down.