7:27 am Monday morning.
The traffic was terrible – rush hour was about to get a bit worse. I was traveling southbound on I-95, looking forward to attending a Leadership Event, all while thinking to myself how fortunate I am to not have the interstate as part of my daily commute.
At one point, the traffic came to a complete stop in the “fast” lane. I was reflecting on the irony of the 70 mph speed limit sign nearby, when I noticed in my rearview mirror a car zig-zagging through traffic.
I helplessly watched him pull right behind my completely stopped car in an attempt to change lanes around me, only to run into my driver’s side rear bumper.
Rear ended by carelessness.
But it gets a bit worse before it gets better.
I put on my emergency flashers and pull off towards the left side shoulder, while the other driver pulls ahead, also with his emergency flashers on as well.
Only he doesn’t stop.
Now, he is speeding up. I speed up too, and decide that I should probably take a picture or two of his license plate. Just as I finish my impromptu photo session, the driver makes a sharp right turn across four lanes of traffic, immediately exiting the highway.
A hit and run.
I get angry and I panic a bit.
I call the Highway Patrol and report the accident, and I am instructed to pull over and wait for an officer. I stop by the left side of the road and get out to inspect the damage.
It’s not that bad, from what I can tell. Some deep scrapes, a small gouge, and a busted reflector. I had managed to keep the 2006 damage free up until now, but oh well, it was a good run.
At this point, the Highway Tow Service arrives and the driver starts setting up some cones to prevent the traffic (now moving at speeds in excess of 80 mph) from getting too close to my stopped vehicle.
I speak with the driver a bit about what happened, and he makes the rather astute recommendation that I ought to move further down the road and park in an area less likely to cause my untimely death. He referred to the stretch of the road I was on as the “Devil’s Alter,” and that I did not want to end up as another sacrifice. I agreed, thanked him, and wisely relocated my car.
After notifying Highway Patrol of my new location, I had enough time to lament the fact that I left the book I am currently reading (The War of Art) at home, thinking that I would not have time in the day to make any progress.
This must be that “Resistance” Steven Pressfield keeps talking about.
The Patrol officer arrives, and I do by best to explain what happened. He collects my license, registration, and insurance information and returns to his car to complete the report.
After a short wait, I receive my information back and I am given a brief “Information Exchange” form that includes only my information on it. The other driver did not think to give me his info while he was fleeing the scene.
Must have slipped his mind.
So what have I gotten out of all of this so far?
The importance of others.
Crazy, right? I just told you my story, and all the while I was experiencing this event, where do you think my attention was focused? That’s right, on myself. I was so concerned about the damage to MY car, the loss of MY time, the hassle that I was going through, how I was going to be late to where I was going….and the list goes on.
It was all about me.
But upon reflection, I started noticing others.
The Drivers Around Me
Have you ever witnessed a traffic accident? it can be a scary thing. Others around me were experiencing stress in their morning commute because of this event. Maybe one of the witnesses had been in an accident themselves, and seeing this happen before their eyes brought back painful memories.
The Driver of the Tow Truck
I want to thank him for taking the time to stop and make sure I was alright. He literally put his life on the line while setting up cones to redirect speeding traffic around my vehicle. He took the time to speak with me and recommend that I relocate my vehicle. He even provided me with advice on the safest way to reenter the traffic. Thank you.
The Highway Patrol Officer
I often neglect to think about how difficult a job the men and women of law enforcement have. I started thinking about the dangers involved. The officer said that he would go to the address of the car that hit me, and inspect for damage. I know the neighborhood that the highway exit lead to – it’s often in the news for violent crime.
He could be walking into a potentially dangerous or hostile situation – who knows why the car that hit me fled. It’s a crazy world we live in.
The Other Driver
I’m sure he was as scared or frustrated as I was by the whole event – probably even more. Who knows what was going through his mind. He had a choice to make, and rather than face the consequences of his actions, he chose to run. We all would like to think we would do the right thing, when placed in a difficult situation – but not everyone does.
So where does this take me?
I don’t really know, much of this “event” is still unfolding. I still don’t know if the other driver was ever found or contacted. I don’t know if he was insured, or what will come from all this. What I do know, is that I have had some important and valuable reflections as a result of another’s life crashing into my own.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond.