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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Staring At Death In the Rearview Mirror

Sometimes you just have a moment where you know angels were with you. I had that happen last Friday.

I was on my way home from work. The sun was shining, it was warm enough to open the sun roof, and I was happily singing along with some tunes. I was in a damn fine mood because some things had worked out that I hadn't expected and that eliminated some stress I was dealing with.

To say I hate driving in Atlanta, though, is understating things. People drive far too fast and usually fairly recklessly here and my entire commute has me white knuckled most days. In Minneapolis, I was nearly always in the left-hand lane and rarely had to move over to let someone get past me. In Atlanta, I drive on the right and still have idiots tailgating me closer than I've ever been tailgated in MN.

This is a slight digression, but not by too much.

So Friday afternoon, I'm driving in the exit only lane to get off the freeway. I have a car ahead of me and ahead of his is a semi without a trailer. I can't see beyond the truck because of how tall it is. Behind me is another semi and this one does have a trailer on it.

Suddenly, ahead of me brakes are slammed on and I step on mine, too. I knew I was going to stop in time to avoid hitting anyone, but the semi behind me was going much too fast. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw death heading at me.

Time slowed down then in that strange way it has sometimes. I thought about going onto the shoulder, but was afraid he'd do the same and I'd end up getting hit anyway.

Impact at 50mph or more would drive me very hard into the car ahead of me and I'd be smooshed. Probably killed.

I could smell his brakes as he stepped on them hard. The driver definitely burned some rubber. He knew he wasn't going to stop in time, too, but we both got a reprieve. The lane to our left was empty. He swerved out while he was braking. The trailer began to jackknife and he had to fight to keep it straight. He ended up in two lanes to our left, but the car in that lane was able to avoid getting hit.

And then it was over. The truck came to a stop and the rear end of his trailer was two vehicles ahead of me. The BACK end. There was no doubt how hard I would have been hit if he hadn't swerved.

I didn't fall apart in the car, but I kept the radio on and concentrated on singing the words to keep from freaking out. I was shaking when I got home, and though I drink rarely, I would have had one that night...if I'd had any alcohol in the house. My parents didn't even leave any open wine behind from their visit and I normally would never consider drinking wine.

When the worst of the reaction passed, I just went numb. I couldn't do anything and I stayed that way for about 24 hours. And then I was fine. Mostly.

Sometimes when I close my eyes, I can still see that semi with trailer barreling at me. I think I'll be seeing that for a long time.

But I know I was watched over and that it wasn't my time to leave. I'm grateful and humbled and I'm totally signing up for the van pool so that I don't have to drive here anymore than necessary.