None of us knows how close we have come to death by accident. Even those who have survived horrible events are clueless about the myriad of near misses. This month I have had two near accidents on 8th street here in Cleveland.
We live in the country on the eastern side of Bradley County. The city of Cleveland is oblong running north and south. We use to live on the northern tip of town. Our drive to work near the center of town was seven miles and took twenty to thirty minutes due to traffic and signals. Our current house is the exact same distance but requires ten minutes or less to drive. We have two stop signs and no traffic lights going and coming. The five miles closest to the house are on country roads. Our last mile going to work is on 8th Street.
8th Street is a narrow city street through one of the poorer and older subdivisions in Cleveland. Coming from either direction is a moderately steep climb to a hill top. The intersecting streets run north and south. Several are blind intersections due to shrubs. Each of the intersecting streets has a stop sign. Twice this month drivers have run their stop signs right in front of me. Both were talking on cell phones. I had to slam on my brakes to avoid them. It was not that traumatic; I was in my truck once and Cheryl’s car the other time. If we would have collided there would not have been life threatening injuries, probably.
The scary thing about those near misses is that I often am on my motor cycle and not behind collapsible metal and an airbag. Most motorcyclists who are killed or seriously injured are only traveling about 35 miles an hour when someone pulls out in front of them or T-bones them.
I have only had a few near misses on my cycle. One was my fault going around a curve in the mountains. We went off the road and over a log. We were actually air born, but God helped me to keep the motorcycle upright and come to a stop. (Just call me Steve McQueen.) Here in town I have had two thoughtless drivers do a u-turn right in front of me. With both I almost laid the bike down, but didn’t. If you like to ride a motorcycle and you want to live, you will learn to anticipate people doing idiotic things.
Still, my most traumatic near-misses have been in cars. On a Sunday morning in the spring of 1972 I was driving a little over the speed limit on back roads going to church during a light rain when a pack of dogs ran out in front of me. I locked my brakes and fish tailed all over the road before getting my Pinto under control. By the grace of God there was no oncoming traffic. Even as I was still swerving (read that right, "swerving" not "swearing") with my heart pounding in my chest, I said to myself, “Jackie, you fool; no dog is worth killing yourself over. From now own I won’t risk my life to save an animal.” I’ve had a few opportunities to keep that promise.
My most horrible near miss was in late winter of 1978. We were driving home to Minot from church in Butte, North Dakota when I topped a hill and hit some black ice. I was going way too fast for the conditions and once again fish tailed all over the road. This time I had Cheryl and baby Alethea in the front seat of our Oldsmobile Omega with me. When I stepped out of the car forty five minutes later my knees buckled under me. I knew how close I had come to losing the two people who meant the whole world to me. That’s the day I became a truly conscientious driver.
I am thankful I have only had two relatively minor accidents in my life. I am thankful I was not at fault either time and more importantly, no one was injured. I am thankful for my near-misses; they taught me a lot about safety. I am also thankful for all of those near misses I missed; that is, I wasn’t even aware I came close to death. Since I don’t know about them, I can’t write about them. What I do know is that in my youth I sometimes drove with wanton disregard for safety and I have been kept safe by the hand of God. I also know I have been on the highways with others who have less of a regard for safety and even less skill than I have and by God’s grace we have not yet met. Thanks be to God. I’ve almost convinced myself to stay home tomorrow, but I am addicted to that pay check.
September 28, 2010