Keep moving unless you’re headed for a cliff

Felt like a deer in the headlights for a sec or two yesterday. Cycling home from work and I’m thinking about death, thinking about serious bodily injury, a life without cycling, never playing sports again, living out my days in a wheelchair.

Crossing a busy intersection I’m suddenly confronted with a white van – why is it always a white van? – screaming toward me. I think: he hasn’t seen me. Danger.

But instead of speeding up, I freeze where I am. Maybe not so much like a deer in the headlights, because I let out a huge yell. It feels as if everyone around has turned to watch what will happen next.

He hits the brakes, but the ground is still wet from a recent downpour. He skids on the pavement, finally stopping right by my left leg. He’s looking straight at me, starts to roll down his window to say something, but I shake my head and start on again. What’s the point of telling yet another driver to slow down and look out for cyclists?

Besides, if I’d just kept going instead of hitting the brakes in a panic, I would have been past him, even if he’d never seen me and never braked at all.

Just keep going: Why is it that we sometimes forget lessons we thought would stick with us for a lifetime?

When I’d just turned 20 I stayed up partying with a friend for two days and two nights. We both had good-paying jobs with the railway, had been in the bush for a while, had finally got some days off and were determined to have a good time. Late in the evening of the second night we tried to convince a couple of colleagues to cover our shifts the next morning, because we’d somehow ended up about 500 miles away. No way, they told us. You show up at eight in the morning, or else.

So Mark and I were forced to drive back all night over a lonely road.

After a few hours at the wheel sometime just after dawn I remember thinking: I’m getting pretty tired. I think I should get Mark to drive for a while.

Next thing I hear is Mark screaming: Eeeee-Yannn! WAKE THE FUCK UP!!!

I turn around and Mark is in mid-air, on the way back down after getting bounced up and off the ceiling.

I turn forward just in time to see a tree – as perfect as any Christmas tree – being flattened under the hood.

We’re in tall grass and boulders headed for the toolies and I’m being screamed at.

I guess my brain figures it’s OK to keep going since we’re not headed for a cliff, so I hit the gas, tromp on it for all it’s worth and swing the wheel to the left, 10 feet up the bank and back onto the road.

We get out to look at the damage. Bits of bark and evergreen tree in the rental car grille, some scraping on the undercarriage, but nothing a wipe or two won’t hide.

We walk a hundred feet back to look at the start of the long, lazy curve, the tracks in the gravel leading down the bank the straight and perfect proof of my falling asleep at the wheel.

I could have panicked like I did yesterday and hit the brakes. But that would have meant hours waiting for a tow truck, police reports, six demerit points for driving without due care and attention, a hassle with the rental car company, missing our shifts, maybe even getting fired. But I hit the gas instead. I kept moving.

Always keep moving ahead unless you’re headed off a cliff.

Didn’t impress my friend Mark though.

He says: Give me the keys. I’m driving.

© 2007 lettershometoyou
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5 Responses to “Keep moving unless you’re headed for a cliff”

  1. August 17, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    Yikes. Your experience reminded me of a good friend of ours who was listening to his walkman (pre-mp3 player days), started up after a stop at a seemingly benign intersection in a neighborhood, and was hit by a speeding car coming around a blind curve. We saw his bike (red with white tape) on the news that night and my husband knew it had to be him. I called the newstation, asked who it was. They said they couldn’t tell me until notification of family. I gave them my friend’s name and they said, Yes, that’s him. He was killed instantly.

  2. August 18, 2007 at 8:36 am

    glad you lived to tell the tale Ian.

    sorry about your friend, ybonesy, helluva way to find out

  3. August 18, 2007 at 8:47 am

    oh god, that’s horrible. like i said, i thought about a lot of things on the way home.

  4. August 18, 2007 at 11:13 am

    brrrr. both sound very close. good you’re fine.
    the latter reminded me that my man took a ride last year from berlin to cologne with the “mitfahrzentrale”, and the guy, who was a very young driver, fell asleep on the left lane on the autobahn. he hit the crash barrier in the middle going 130 km/h and skidded across the right lane into the ditch. no one was hurt. when i heard about it i almost fainted. phew.

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