18 June 2014

Late Life Or No Life

I usually work until five or five-thirty-ish. And since my father is also my employer, he'll try to finish up early if there's somewhere I need to be in the evening.

Today (well, yesterday) I had music practice at the church at seven. It's no big deal as long as I leave home by 6.30. But we were very nearly done the roof we were shingling, so we pushed the time limit... five... five-thirty... six... None of us thought to check the time. It was six-thirty by the time we left the jobsite.

My dad drove exactly right at the edge of the limit the entire way home. It's possible to do the drive to church in fifteen minutes if you go flat-out so if I could leave home by 6.45, I would still have a chance.

We got home. I changed, washed my face, grabbed the sandwich my mother handed me, and raced back out the door to the rattletrap.

Full disclosure: At the time of my story, I was doing five kilometres over the speed limit. It wasn't intentional; it was that thing where you know you're late and can't afford to go slower than the speed limit so you keep nudging the pedal farther down until suddenly you look down at the speedometer and go, Holy cow, slow down, Flash.

I had just noticed that I was five over the limit when in the sideview mirror I saw the minivan behind me pull out to pass. At first I was gearing up for a rant to share with my persnickety CD player -- I'm late too, so you can't make that excuse. Plus I'm already speeding. You're still going faster than the limit even following me. And you're STILL going to pass me? 

The rant was choked back when I saw the car in the oncoming lane. At first it looked like the passing minivan might just make it in front of me... but, oh my, were we closing in fast. Suddenly the car was almost directly in front of me.

As much as my pride wanted to keep my speed and let the Stupid Idiot Moron in the minivan have a heart attack and be forced to move back behind me until it was actually safe, I couldn't. I slammed on the brakes, if only for the sake of the poor guy in the car. As it was, he almost had to hit the ditch to avoid a collision.

The minivan slipped in front of me without even a touch on the brakes or a signal light. Just cruised on through as if she hadn't almost killed somebody -- or herself.

I expected myself to be angry, but I found myself strangely gutted.

How can anyone do something like that? We look in the newspapers at stories of murders and rapes and stabbings and violent kidnappings and ask how anybody can do such a thing, but taking a chance on the road just because the gas pedal isn't touching the floor yet is not that far removed. Someone almost died on that road tonight. It may have been the man in the car. Or it may have been the idiot driver herself. Yes, there may be enough room to pass, but are you willing to bet your life on it? Is getting where you need to be on time really more important than your own life? What good is being on time if you arrive as a newly minted corpse -- or murderer?

That woman in the minivan owes her life to me. I don't expect her to do anything to thank me, but I do hope she realises that. She gets to see another sunrise. And I could have taken that away from her by simply not moving my foot -- or by not even seeing her in my sideview mirror.

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