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home : insight & opinion : guest columns May 24, 2016

2/7/2013 1:57:00 PM
Near-miss is a call to appreciate life
For the Daily News

We had a weather event last Thursday evening, not much in the scale of things; a little snow, a little ice, and it was over in less than an hour.

I had missed most of it, occupied indoors and not being the sort who needs a television on all the time to keep me company. I was surprised a bit, when I came out to go and pick up my wife at the library, that the yard was white again.

Going north, past the old Heath plant approaching the Big Four intersection, I was driving moderately and paying attention to what was going on. There were no cars in front of me. I applied the brakes early, as is my habit, and was startled to learn I did not have any. Instead of slowing down, the car actually seemed to pick up speed; I heard the anti-lock brakes' thud-thud-thud and realized there was ice on the road. Until then, I had not seen any sign of it. My car had been in the garage so there was none on the windshield. I came from south of town down by New Hebron, where he roads were clear when I left. Still, right here, things were different.

As I was still some distance from the traffic light, I was not all that concerned until things started to happen rather quickly. The light turned green for me, which was good, and a black car in the turn lane facing me had not turned and blocked my path. I was doing all I could; I had pumped the brakes on and off, flashed my lights to warn other motorists, and honked my horn and continued to honk it. With luck, the way things were going, I might be able to slide through the intersection without hitting anyone so long as my lane stayed clear. It didn't.

The black car turned right in front of me, leaving me nowhere to go. Time slowed a bit as I continued to flash my lights, honk, steer, brake and hope somehow this was all going to work out, but it looked more and more like the beginning of a very bad accident.

"Too fast for conditions" would probably be what the ticket would say, I thought to myself, and was glad to have my seat belt on. I just couldn't bear to hit the other car broadside, so I turned to the right, crowding it over into the next lane, which was empty, and as I hit a patch of better road, we both changed directions just enough to miss one another by millimeters.

In her defense, I'll bet she thought she had time to beat the car coming at her by turning first and going, but since she had an arrow, she probably had started to go but been unable to because of the poor condition of the road and a lack of traction. Having pulled into a lane and not been able to get across it to avoid a collision, she, too, probably shared my instantaneous worry/relief. We did not total our cars or injure ourselves.

Elsewhere, just a few miles away, others were not so fortunate - lives were lost that night, which I didn't realize until I read it in the paper the next day.

I am of an age now when I know full well that fate is a random hunter, and I am in season. Something out there will get me, someday. While that is troubling and may make me want to hunker down and stay in the cabin as much as possible, I know it's the coward's solution.

What we should do instead, and what I try to do even more now than before, is tell those we love how we feel about them and appreciate every moment with them we have. Who knows? There may be a patch of ice out there with our name on it.

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