I had other plans for a post today. Another time.
However, this weekend, I had a moment of clarity. I call it survival.
On an unlit 3-lane highway in the center lane, I drove at a sensible cruising speed. No cell phone and no distractions—it was just me behind the wheel.
Like the movies, knowing the inevitability of a scene’s outcome, three seconds stood still when I sighted what lay ahead. There was a car parked in the middle of the road with no lights on. Why I do not know. There was no time, and I braced for the impact at full speed.
That is what happened, and this is what is left of my car:
Soldiers speak of the fog of war. After stumbling out of my vehicle, I had presence of mind, as I knew I survived, in one piece, and I would see tomorrow. However, as much as the notion of dialing 911 entered my consciousness, I could not execute. I now understand what the term shellshock means. I was in the moment, but I was not, and it took a few minutes for my wits to return. I just remember blood on my hands and face, and a lot of soreness.
It occurred to me, only during the last few hours, that I am lucky to be here. If this were twenty years ago, pre airbag, the outcome would be different. I have a face left because of that device, and I am alive because I wore a seatbelt.
Additionally, I am still thanking god there were no little ones in the car. I cannot imagine the mental toll this would have on a child.
God bless good samaritans. For the EMT tech (whose real gig is a Professor of Philosophy at NYU) who stopped to help, thank you.
For the salesperson, whose name I never got, who waved traffic and stood with me until the police arrived, you are a godsend.
For all the cruddy bumpers and flimsy plastic trim that scratch and cause anguish, they are meaningless in the context of safety. The air bag went off, and the technology did its job. This is not your dad’s Buick. That is a very good thing.
Finally, as I write about policy, I have a concluding message on seatbelts. It resonates just as loudly today in our debate about health care and regulation. Thirty-two states mandate use; for the other eighteen, what can I say, although the expression, “live free or die” seems apt. Please buckle up, and that goes for cab use too. I had the alertness in those few seconds to think about the belt before the collision. You cannot imagine the force of a crash, and without that device, the windshield is your next stop. No kidding.
Finally, to add just a bit of levity as the soreness and headache permeate my innards, my cousin Keith, always the optimist, emailed me this to put a smile on my face.
And yes, it worked.
Have a great Thanksgiving. I know I will.