Tuesday, December 13, 2011

One Second Between Life and Death

Had I left my parking garage one second sooner yesterday, a man would have died. Had this idiot cyclist been one second slower, he would have died. But he didn't. Fate, God, luck, random chance gave him a narrow escape. I wonder if he thought about it as much as I have, and used the reflections to change his ways.

I left the parking garage around 11 to go volunteer for LLS at an event. Because of a movie being filmed in town about Abraham Lincoln, traffic is messed up. Trucks are parked all over the place. Horses, oxen, and Civil War soldiers walk around. When you leave the garage, you have to turn left down a narrow alley that exists on Ninth Street. Ninth Street is one way, heading north, so you must turn left at its intersection with the alley. I stopped at the end of the alley - with buildings on each side, you must do this to make sure that no pedestrians are about to step in front of you. The sidewalks were clear, so I pulled up over the sidewalk, and stopped again to make sure no one was driving up Ninth Street. It was all clear to the right, the only direction traffic should come from. To the left, parked along Ninth Street, was a solid line of large movie trucks parked along the side of the street, totally blocking the view of the road in that direction. It was if there were an impenetrable wall there. Since no traffic would come from that direction and it was all clear to the right, I took my foot off the brake and hit the gas pedal.

At that exact instant, a cyclist appeared from behind the parked trucks just feet away and almost exactly in my space. Ninth Street is all downhill there, and he was moving at least 20 miles per hour, probably faster. With amazing reaction time, if I do say so myself, I hit the brake and stopped just in time as he zipped by. I screamed "You moron!" at him. Well, okay, I may have prefaced moron with an adjective, a rather colorful and useful one. Had I gotten there one second earlier, or had he gotten there one second later, I would have been pulling out into the street in front of him, and he would have slammed into the side of my car. At 30 or 40 feet a second, he would have either catapulted over the car and landed in the street some distance away, or he would have smashed his head or broken his neck against the side of my car.

It left me shaken as I drove away. This fool - I call him a fool because he was riding the wrong way on a street, and riding very fast - came very close to dying. I reflected on all the things that could have conspired to save his life. We arrived at the same point in space at almost exactly the same instant in time. But not quite - there was a matter of a single second's difference that saved him. If I had gotten to my car one second sooner, if I had walked just a tiny bit slower, if I had taken one more second to make sure that the mirror was adjusted right, he would be dead. Although we could argue that someone that stupid shouldn't be in the gene pool, I am glad that I am not the one who removed him from it. Really glad, actually.

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