A Moment of Haste

One minute I'm driving along, enjoying that full feeling you have after an all you can eat lunch. Its a nice day, good to be off the farm on a drive in the country.

My Mom, brother Kevin (still not a Monk!) and I had gone to visit with my Aunt and Grandma. There is a town about half way between, a hotel there has a weekend buffet that's pretty good.

Anyway, we're on the way home, full and happy, and not really talking as much, as is often the case when you're full and happy!

I noticed the car in front of us was going a bit under the speed limit. Maybe I'm getting old or what ever, but I'd decided to just bump down the cruise control and follow him a while, and enjoy the ride.

A few minutes later, a pick up decides to pass us. No big deal, roads here in Alberta are pretty good, shoulders are usually wide enough to pull over a bit and let someone by. Except now, this guy in the blue Dodge pick up decides to pass coming up to a dip in the road. He's about half past us, I've kicked off the cruise and am coasting, to help him out a bit.

That's about when I notice he's pulling a little RV travel trailer. He's not going super fast or anything, and has no problem passing me, since I let off the gas. By now he sees the car in front of us, the real reason I'm not going any faster. So with another puff of exhaust, you can see him speed up to pass the next car, too.

Now he's on the way down the hill, and you can see there is traffic coming toward us, but there is still time, no worries yet.

Except the guy passing must have dropped off the gas kind of abruptly or something, because the trailer starts to squirm a little. Nothing too bad, mind you, just a little wiggle.

Now time just kind of slows down. That little wiggle in the trailer gets worse. The brake lights come on. The car in front of us is hard on the brakes, and over to the shoulder of the road. A quick look in my mirror, good, clear, no one on my tail, I hit the brakes too and angle for the shoulder. By now I'm not going that fast anyway, so we had plenty of time.

Blue pick up with the trailer is going from bad to worse, now looking at head on traffic. A couple good fish tales, and the trailer snaps sideways, and slides into the opposite shoulder and ditch, until the tires dig into the soft dirt, and the trailer rolls and just explodes. Pick up slides to a stop, sideways, but up on 4 tires, well, 3 tires from what we can see, the front tire is flat from the side slide.

We all look at each other, eyes wide, and slowly roll past the truck. We can see they are physically fine, although from the look on the guys wifes face, its going to be an awkward ride home!

The opposite lane traffic had all seen this happening, and came to a safe stop up the road. Since it didn't seem like anyone needed assistance, and to avoid any further problems, we rolled past, and then continued on our way home.

A few days later Kevin and I were talking and that trailer wiping out came up again. I was driving that day, but he was in the front seat, and we both saw what was happening about the same time. Later on, we were talking about how its kind of a good idea to be looking for the other guy.

Especially now with cell phones and laptops and GPS and all the normal knucklehead drivers out there, there is a lot to be looking out for. We've all driven distracted. We go through life thinking of other stuff, or thinking bad things don't happen to us.

I was lucky, in a way. My first "car" was a motorcycle. I was 16, and often drove like an idiot. Probably amazing I survived that phase! Kids... I did realize I didn't have bumpers, or doors, around me. If I got hit by a car, I realized I'd probably be a smear on the pavement. So even though I was driving too fast, I was hyper aware of what traffic around me was doing. I can't even count the number of times I had cars pull right in front of me, because they didn't see me. So I just got to expect it.

Then the military probably helped too. Not only was I trained to expect all kinds of bad things to happen, I spent hours at a time with helicopters hovering over my head, or jets trying to blow me off the ship. I learned that I could operate quite safely in a hostile environment, if I kept my wits about me, and was ready when things went badly.

So I started playing a "what if" game in my head. What would I do if the ship caught on fire. Or the helicopter lost power and crashed onto the deck. If I was blown off the flight deck by a jet. By thinking about things ahead of time, I thought maybe I'd have a head start if it did happen.

Oh, yeah, those things did happen. But not always to me. I know people who were on a ship, very much like the ones I was on, that had a massive fuel fire. One of the helicopters I worked on did splash into the ocean because of an engine failure. It then managed to take off from the water, circle around, and do a pretty good crash landing onto the deck. I saw it, it was pretty amazing. Another time, I was nearly blown off the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. I was pretty scared that time. Well, I was scared after, I was too busy hanging on at the time!

Back to our friend pulling the trailer. I helped myself out by being aware of what was going on around me. Because I kept my eyes moving (learned that in the Navy!) I saw him coming long before he started passing me. I didn't have to slow down, but I did. It gave me a few extra seconds to think, to the point that when that trailer turned into splinters, we didn't have any problems staying out of the way.

A parting thought. If you are driving to a place that is an hour away, and you go 5 miles per slower, you'll get there about 5 minutes later. If your destination is closer than an hour, it will make even less. In other words, unless you're driving really fast, or really slow, you'll probably get there within a few minutes of the same time.

Think about it, and enjoy the drive! And keep your eyes open!

By Carlin Comm posted on 2010-10-12 13:15:36