Monday, August 13, 2012

Nearly died again

For most of twenty years I had a heck of a commute. From 1992 through early 2012 (with interruptions in 2007, 2010, and large parts of 2011) I drove 33-35 miles each way to and from work, mostly on Interstate 81. It wasn't the worst commute in the world, or the longest; but it was long enough and dangerous enough that it seemed to me that I had a good chance of eventually dying during that trip.

I now have a five mile commute to work, mostly along sparsely-traveled back roads. Dying in traffic is less of a concern.

This weekend I nearly died on my way to my writing group.

OK, my writing group meets in Scranton, and the commute takes me on I-81, so the same issues I had with getting to work apply. But this wasn't even there. This was on the Sans Souci Parkway, a surprisingly deadly four-lane road that connects Nanticoke to Wilkes-Barre. I was making a pit stop there for gas before getting on the highway, at a gas station less than two miles from my house.  To get to the gas station from Nanticoke, you have two options: drive past the gas station to one of the cross-roads or to the Hanover Mall or some other convenient spot, turn around, and make a right-hand turn into the station; or get into the left lane just past the road dividers, wait for oncoming traffic to clear, and make an almost-but-not-quite U-turn into the gas station. Midday on a Saturday, I decided to go for this second option.

And nearly died.

Oncoming traffic was surprisingly heavy for a midday on a Saturday. By "surprisingly heavy" I mean cars and trucks were headed into Nanticoke in ones or twos, but never with enough of a gap between them and the vehicles behind them to make the turn safely. I sat and waited in the left lane, one foot on the brake, turn signal blinking away.

Then I heard the horn.

It sounded far away, but I knew it wasn't. I looked in my rear-view just in time to see a car swerving around me at the last moment. The driver, who I saw out of my right window as he peeled around me well in excess of the posted 45 mph speed limit, was silver-haired and wearing wrap-around sunglasses. I'm not a gambling man, but I'd bet you a dollar he was holding a cell phone up to his right ear, which I couldn't see.

If he had hit me I probably wouldn't have been killed outright, not like the elderly couple who were killed a year and a week ago when a truck made a left turn across their path of travel about two miles down the road.  No, I would have been rear-ended at high speed, maybe clipped on my right rear side, which would have left me rattled but alive - and probably would have pushed me into the path of oncoming traffic. Which might have then hit me head-on on the passenger's side, again possibly not killing me outright - unless I was hit hard enough, especially hard enough to be knocked into the pumps at the gas station I was trying to get to.

Then I would have died.

It didn't happen. The car driven at an excessive rate of speed by a silver-haired guy with wrap-around sunglasses swerved around me at the last possible moment. I'm sure he learned his lesson and will never speed again. And I'm sure all who witnessed this near-tragedy with remember it, and drive more safely all the days of their lives.

Yeah, right.

Sans Souci is French for "without care,"* and that is the attitude of many of the drivers who speed along it, oblivious to speed limits and the presence of other drivers on the road. It's just a matter of time before the next tragic and wholly avoidable deadly accident. After all those years commuting on the highway, it would be ironic if I met my end on a parkway two miles from my house.

*According to Lou Grant in an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, it's French for "without Souci." Lou Grant and his wife went on their honeymoon there - maybe to the old Sans Souci amusement park?


hedera said...

Yikes! SO glad he missed! And I wouldn't take a bet on the cell phone, either.

We talk a lot of dreck about the "right to life," but we risk our lives every time we get in the car...

dr.antony said...

Relax. you have a long way to go!
And there is a time for everything under the sun.

jeff said...

there was a comedian who once said- "most accidents happen within 5 miles of home. That's why I moved." Glad to hear you are ok.

JimboBillyBob said...

In 1984, when I lived in Harding, I read that most fatal accidents occurred within two miles of home. So I got married and moved to Plains. So far, still alive!

Stephen Albert said...

To quote Sgt Esterhaus from Hill Street Blues, "Hey, let's be careful out there!".

Michelle Hryvnak-Davies said...

I'm not surprised. This road is a death trap, which is why I avoid it most of the time.