I know exactly what I want for Christmas.
It occurred to me after I faced down two Mack trucks, one in each lane, side by side, racing towards me. The gift I have in mind will not help me after my demise, but while I still live, it will give me immense satisfaction.
The moment of illumination transpired two weeks ago, December 5th, as I was driving alone, southbound, to Thunder Bay. Just past the former Travelair Restaurant in Jellicoe, I saw three transports rounding the curve ahead of me, northbound.
Not an unusual scenario on Highway 11 . . . in wintertime . . . when most of Canada’s cross-country traffic travels this route, sometimes bumper to bumper.
It took me all of two seconds to twig that two of the semis were travelling abreast. Not even a skinny motorcycle could squeeze between them.
Snowbanks were high, cleared shoulders narrow. I started braking.
And as I was braking, I started hoping. Hoping that the transport in my lane would soon be cutting back into his own lane. And it might have taken two seconds to twig that that wasn’t going to happen. And I was still braking.
I eased my right-side tires onto the snowy shoulder. Still braking. And in the three seconds remaining I maneuvered my left-side tires to join the right-side tires on the narrow shoulder. At any moment I expected the right-side tires to bite into the snowbank and hurl me in proper stunt-man fashion up and over and into the bush, drilling through the frosty air like a corkscrew.
I’d always wanted to know what that would feel like.
When I met the two transports, they were bumper to bumper . . . side by side. I expected at the very least to lose my side-view mirror.
No, that’s that right . . .
Aw shucks. Maybe next time.
. . . Now who would believe me?
For the next while, four tires back on pavement, I analyzed the experience.
I had been calm throughout. Preternaturally calm. Why? . . . why? . . . why?
It dawned on me that I was thinking like a writer. We’ve all had near-death experiences. In one of mine, I had a shotgun pointed at my gut. Well, not at my gut. Okay, not even at me, but at the ground near my feet. And my belly had collapsed, and my balls had shrunk, and I was, I believe, on the point of soiling myself. But that’s another story. And if I live long enough, you’ll hear it. Or rather, read about it. In fact, if you’ve read my novels The Beardmore Relics and Geraldton Back Doors, you’ll see how I used that experience.
Now, this recent brush with death is an experience I will use. In my writing. Someday. Several times. Starting now.
For some reason, I started thinking in biblical language. It had been a case of Thus thou must do, if thou wouldst survive. Not a bad summary of the situation. In fact, “If Thou Wouldst Survive” was my choice for title until I actually sat down to write today.
I thought I would write about the incident right away. But . . . something was missing. I needed more facts.
So, on my way home next day, I timed myself as I traversed that curve. Twice, to and fro. That’s how I came up with seven seconds.
I still wasn’t satisfied. So, on my next trip to Thunder Bay, travelling with Olga, I explained why, just past the old Travelair Restaurant, I was pulling over on the shoulder. Put on my flashers.
But only my right-side tires could fit between the pavement and the snowbank. I took my pictures, one eye peeled for traffic coming up behind me ̶ as if that would help. I took photos from the point where I had first spotted the approaching transports.
Then I pulled further up the road and took photos from where I emerged unscathed from the horrendous accident.
If, on that day, December 5th, the pavement had been icy, or the shoulder too narrow or too rutted or too deep in snow, or some driver behind me had run up my backside, there would have been a horrendous accident.
So let me tell you what I want for Christmas.
I want a dashcam.
I want a record of that horrendous accident . . . if it had occurred.
As it was, I did not report the incident to the highway patrol. I had no information. I don’t know if I encountered Mack trucks or what. I don’t know what their company logos were. I certainly didn’t get licence plates.
I would have had that information with a dashcam.
And someone ̶ not me ̶ would have reported the horrendous accident to the police and handed over the dashcam chip.
Sure, they may not have found the chip (let alone all of me) till springtime, but still, it would give me immense satisfaction before (and perhaps even after) death to know that the living would know what really happened.
It wasn’t my fault.
And as for the driver of that transport . . .
Assuming he or she would have survived . . .
And felt bad, and had family and friends that would also have felt bad for him or for her . . .
I forgive you.