Twenty years ago, on the night of January 31, 2003, it was a cold, foggy Friday night. Against my better judgment (and with the benefit of hindsight), I went out with some friends to a dueling piano bar night in Norfolk.
Why was it against my better judgment? One, I really don’t like profane humor; two, it was a bar and I really, really don’t like the bar culture. Three, it was very late when I got back to my friend’s apartment to pick my car to drive the last five miles home.
Perhaps the most critical reason of all is that this particular road junction is notoriously difficult to navigate, even in broad daylight. Try doing this at 00:50 AM on a foggy night.
I was making a left turn to go north bound on Indian River Road to rejoin Ferrell Parkway when I was hit by an 18 wheeler. A car hit that truck. Miraculously, no one was killed. Not me. And certainly not the woman who hit the big rig. The only thing I suffered was the loss of my glasses. To this day, I still don’t know how they disappeared. They were not destroyed when the airbag deployed. They were not thrown in the backseat of the car. They were certainly ejected outside the vehicle. I also have a permanent scar on my right hand from the broken glass.
What did I learn?
First I hate to say this trite saying, but it is still true. Life is precious. You never know when it will come to an abrupt end.
Second, unprotected left turns in America and every other country that drives on this side of the road is dangerous. Whether it is because your dominant eye, like most people in the world, is your right eye, but it is facing the wrong way and not processing the information quickly enough. Or maybe because of the speed of the oncoming traffic. Or whatever other reason the NTSB says. NOTE: this is less of a problem in the UK and those countries who drive on the other side of the road.
Third, close calls like this remind you that your life is not your own. As Christians, we were saved from our sins and now sanctified. We were made heirs with Jesus and brought into His family. We have been adopted as sons and daughters but unfortunately we still act like rebellious servants. I am all for having fun, but not frivolous and dangerous pursuits.
Four, only God knows our birthday and death-day. Until He has worked out his purpose in your life, it is not over. God will watch over you and send his angels to minister and even protect you from your own folly at times. However, don’t test that. It’s not a license to do even more dangerous things.
Five, it is very easy to drown in hindsight and all the “I should have…”
a) I should have made a right and then made a U-Turn at the next traffic light.
b) I should have stayed home that night.
c) I should have slept in my car in my friend’s apartment complex’s parking lot.
d) I should have…
e) I should have…
It has been 20 years since. I have had a few close calls but no more nearly fatal accidents. Every now and then, I got the shakes and shivers on cold January nights approaching February 1, and it is not because of the cold. It has gotten better since but for the first five years after, I was a nervous wreck whenever I had to make unprotected left turns.
Funny thing; in October 2013, I was back in Virginia Beach on this very stretch of road. The 10th anniversary was six months before that and I didn’t have any problems this time around. Time and experience can change things.
By the way, I was driving a Volvo that night. It saved my life that night. I still drive Volvos.