Taking care

My life (and someone else’s) could have changed irreversibly on Friday. This is the story of how that didn’t happen.

It was a busier day than usual. One of the cars (the Camry) had developed a fault with the driver’s door handle. So in the morning I had to drop my beloved at the station, then drive the Camry back to Burwood and leave it at to our local garage. Once home I did some chores, wrote an email, then headed off to the Museum. I had food shopping to do on the way back, so I drove the GT to the station.

I got there later than usual, about ten-thirty, and stayed until about one-thirty. I had a bit of lunch and walked down to the train at Parliament station. The trip back to my car was quite quick, and I got down to Maling Road at about 2.20. After a bit more to eat and another coffee, I went to the greengrocer. After that I still needed some groceries, so I decided to head to the supermarket in Middle Camberwell. The most direct route there was along Scott Street, Canterbury. Heading south, this street runs along the side of Strathcona Junior Girls’ School; at this point it forms a T intersection with Prospect Hill Road.

Going past the school I got stuck behind a big Range Rover, going very slowly. I guessed the driver was looking for somewhere to pick up his or her daughter. He or she bumbled around, and tried to do a reverse park into a vacant spot, but gave up and went to turn left onto Prospect Hill Road. I moved past into the right turn lane.

Because it is lined with schools, Prospect Hill Road is speed limited to 40 kilometers an hour. There was quite a stream of cars coming towards me, moving slowly. But after a minute or two, there was a gap. Just as I turned into Prospect Hill Road, a young woman stepped off the curb not far in front of me. I was approaching from her right hand side, but she was looking to her left. 

I realised that she hadn’t seen me, and was going to cross in front of me. I braked hard, and ground to a halt a few metres in front of her. Alerted by the noise, she turned to look in my direction. She looked stricken, and waved apologetically.  (I think I just stared at her.) All this took only a few seconds.

She stepped back onto the curb; I continued to the supermarket. I hope she got a fright. I certainly did.

I thought about this later, quite a lot. This young woman’s number didn’t come up this time. But it could well have. How did I avoid her?

Several factors all worked in our favour. Neither of us was distracted by using a mobile phone. I wasn’t going fast, and I was keeping an eye out. I was alert — thank you, coffee number three — so my reflexes were up to the task. The road was dry. The car was well maintained, and the brakes and tyres did what they were supposed to.  If any or several of these things had been different, I might have plowed into her. Her family might now be visiting her in hospital, or arranging her funeral.

I forgot to get the soap from the supermarket. Oh well, I thought, I’ll just get it next time.

It is easy to get caught up in the rising tide of impatience and discourtesy on our roads. I am no better than anyone else when behind the wheel. But if you get held up for five minutes — what, really, is the big deal? So you get where you’re going a bit late. Life goes on.


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