It was a very near miss one August afternoon in 1999 near Worthington in southern Minnesota. I remember it vividly because it was such a close brush with serious injury or death. I was behind the wheel of my 1986 VW Quantum Syncro station wagon.
The fuel gauge read close to empty so I decided to exit the freeway to find a gasoline station. As the car approached the exit ramp, I canceled the cruise control and began braking. I down-shifted to fourth then third gear and released the clutch to take advantage of engine braking. However, the cruise control re-engaged on the tight curve resulting in the car sharply accelerating. I felt the car begin to lean, so I instinctively depressed the clutch pedal. The engine revved almost to red-lining, then dropped to idle speed.
The quick succession of events distracted my full attention from the off-ramp traffic. My station wagon narrowly missed colliding with a delivery truck. I switched the cruise control off and continued driving to a gasoline station for refueling. It took quite awhile to recover my composure before continuing the journey back home to Nebraska.
This incident came to mind early this morning because it recurred in a nightmare during sleep. In the dream scenario, I did collide with the delivery truck. At the point of impact I awakened in horror. This is especially noteworthy, because I rarely experience nightmares. The level of fear was more intense than the actual close-call in 1999.
Our lives are a gamble. We have close calls. People are injured or killed in accidents in motor vehicles, airplanes, or simply walking across streets. Many accidents happen within the sanctuary of home. If we survive, we brush ourselves off and resume our lives.
After serious accidents, there is often psychological trauma. At the very least, there is the realization that accidents don’t only happen to someone else. In the best case, accidents cause us to be more mindful as we go about our day to day existence.
In the aftermath, perhaps we become a little wiser and express more gratitude for what we have and for being alive. I hope you remain safe and sound today.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes drag queen, media personality, and recording artist, Aquaria (Giovanni Palandrani). “Accidents happen and all of that, but it’s how we pick ourselves up from the accidents that matters.”