The ordinariness of daily life lulls us into a false sense of security. It takes an incident out of the ordinary to remind us how vulnerable we really are.
We were on the last leg of our trip back from North Carolina , between Exit 2 and Exit 3 on the New Jersey Turnpike . Traffic was light and we were making good time and looking forward to home. Suddenly my brother-in-law , who was driving , exclaimed ” What is he DOING ?” Ahead of us , a red car had turned around and was racing back towards us , going south in the northbound lanes. At first , it was in the space between the fast lane and the divider but , as we watched in horror, it moved into the fast lane itself and accelerated. Luckily , my brother-in-law , who is a very good driver , had switched into the middle lane as soon as he saw what was happening up ahead . The car passed by us going full throttle . Shaken , we proceeded on our way , expecting any moment to hear , behind us , the loud crash of a head-on collision. It didn’t happen . Other motorists too must have seen the approaching danger and got out of the way.
Why the driver was going the wrong way is a mystery. It was midmorning , the light was good ; he must have knowingly done what he did. One possible clue : a few minutes later, there was a silver alert about a red Subaru Forester . A silver alert is for senior citizens who may have wandered away. Could it have been that the driver was a senior citizen who had suffered a seizure of some sort and was not aware of what he was doing ? After we got home we switched to the local TV channel to see if there was some news that might explain what happened that morning. There wasn’t , and we will never know .
The entire incident happened in maybe three to five seconds and there was no time to think , let alone to feel afraid. Afterwards , however , we were all visited by dark thoughts of how bad it could have been . What if my brother-in-law had not immediately , almost instinctively, switched to the middle lane ? What if traffic had been heavier and the inner lane crowded? What if the mystery driver had been hell-bent on destruction and veered into the middle lane ?
In more than forty-five years of driving , I have had only two other dangerous things happen to me . Once ,happened about fifteen years ago when we were taking my daughter to college . Traffic was light and we were tooling along in the middle lane when all of a sudden the car ahead of us came to a dead stop. Thank God the right lane was clear . I instinctively slid to the right and a few moments later I heard a loud crash as the car behind me crashed into the stalled vehicle.
The other incident happened two years ago when I was returning from Newark airport . Once again , I was in the middle lane when the car ahead of me , inexplicably came to a stop , and people started to get out of it . I jammed on the brakes and , barely a couple of feet away from it , veered into the right lane . There was a squealing of brakes as the people behind me did the same .
No matter how careful a driver one is , there is always the danger that others are not . But one can’t dwell too much on such matters or one would never go anywhere , never do anything. All one can do is to be as careful as one can be and trust to luck.