Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Near misses

The  12- 13-year-old and I were driving up our road this evening on our way home. The sun was out. The air was warm and breezy. The teenager was in a rare happy mood. Homework done, no big worries. It was one of those ordinary altogether lovely moments that makes a day worthwhile.

We'd stopped to fill up the gas tank before heading home to do chores, but the station was full of commuters on their way home from the city, so we decided to skip it and come straight home.

I pulled up at the last stop sign before our stretch of road. Our road crosses another, slightly busier country road at a weird angle. At the intersection there are woods and fields and an overgrown hedge hiding an old white barn with a heavy hundred-year-old slate roof that is slowly pulling it down to the ground. From the direction of our house, it's hard to see the fast cars speeding down the busier road from the right at the weird angle, around the hedge and barn. The busier road doesn't stop. The cars just hurtle past.

I pulled up at this last stop from the direction of town. I could see all around from where we sat. I could see the black station wagon coming down the road toward me from the direction of our house. I could see the black sedan coming from my left past the fields and the hedge. I waited. Like I have a waited a thousand times before. Waited for the black station wagon to stop. Waited for the black sedan to slide past. Waited for my turn to cross.

Except the station wagon didn't stop. And the black sedan couldn't see him rolling out into the intersection from behind the hedge. And I covered my eyes and screamed. And I heard the crash and opened my eyes and saw the black sedan come careening straight at us as we sat at the intersection waiting. Waiting to cross. Waiting to get hit.

The driver of the sedan made a valiant attempt to miss us, but it was too much. The roads are narrow, the shoulders are non-existent. There was nowhere to go. She - it turned out to be an older woman -  pulled hard, trying to avoid us, but in the end her front end slammed into our front end and scraped down the length of our car before landing in the ditch. The teenager and I both had our seat belts on, we weren't moving when she hit us, and her first impact, with the station wagon, slowed her down quite a bit. So our airbags didn't even open. We were fine. And I'll say, before anyone worries, the woman seemed to be ok as well, though stunned. A passerby called the police and within minutes there was an ambulance and two or three firetrucks on scene. The sheriff's deputy who showed up did a great job taking statements and organizing the report and distributing the insurance information. The man in the station wagon, the one who ran the stop sign, was also ok.

We spent an hour sitting at that corner, in our dented and scraped car, waiting to be cleared by the deputy, talking about what we could have done differently, that would have put us at that intersection at a slightly different moment in time -- slightly before the crash or slightly after. We could have waited at the gas station. I could have driven faster. I could have gone to that late work meeting in the city, instead of heading home to work. So many tiny choices and unconscious decisions added up to put us at that stop sign at precisely the moment that those cars collided.

We're ok, but my lovely day was dampened.


  1. And had you NOT done those same things you worry about that you DID, it could have been much, much worse. Glad everyone is ok.

  2. This was your lucky day. Glad it was not worse.

  3. Thank goodness you were both okay - and the woman who hit you was okay, too. People who go through stop signs and red lights, drive me crazy. Are we supposed to be able to read their pea-sized minds? But I am glad you are okay.