Last night I drove down to a house on Old Lynchburg Road to pick up a stereo system through freecycle. It was pitch black at 6:00 PM, and as the road went from four lanes to two to barely two, I began to get really nervous driving.
I no longer like driving at night on rural roads. When I was younger and gasoline was free, I would roam Campbell County just to see how my hometown was put together. My friends and I explored every road, and I got to know the whole place.
As I got older, I found more things to do with my time, I stopped driving as much. When I was at Virginia Tech, I did a little of this but that was mostly in conjunction with time spent delivering pizza for Backstreets. When I lived in New Hampshire, I drove around a lot, too.
Then I got older, and my night vision decreased a bit. Gasoline got more expensive, and it didn't seem like a fun leisurely activity. And then my life became saturated with responsibility.
I don't really need a new stereo system, but I figured I should pick this up as a back-up just in case my current one died. So, it was worth taking a break from work. So, off I went. And, as soon as I got to the narrow stretch of road, someone who is more familiar with the road, and likely better eyesight, immediately came within tailgating range. I was not a fan of this mood, and began to panic. I didn't know where I was going, adding to the general sense of peril.
However, thankfully I made it to the place, picked up my stuff, and got back in the car to come back. I was calmer because there was no one behind me. However, the car in front of me began to slow down. Something was up.
A silver SUV was flipped over on its side. It had just happened. I couldn't tell if anyone was in it at all. Some sort of liquid had leaked from the car. Was it blood? Was someone dead, hurt? Was the car going to blow up? Was I the kind of person who could jump in and help? What to do?
The car in front of me just drove around. Another car coming towards me also passed by. Should I do the same? Would I have the guts to help out?
I took a deep breath, inched the car ahead, and got out of the car. As I did, I could see someone moving around inside. I shouted if he was okay, and he said he was fine, that everyone was alright. I didn't believe him so I asked again, also asking what had happened?
"Deer jumped out at us," he said.
Sudden intrusion into his life changed his night and week forever. He was looking through the car, looking for something. I asked if he needed me to call 911, but he said he'd already done it. I asked him if he needed anything, and he said he was fine.
So, I got back in my car, and slowly passed him. I saw his girlfriend standing next to it. It was very strange seeing the SUV upside down.
I drove very slowly on my way back into town, reflecting on what the experience might teach me. I've been going way too fast lately. I don't take the time to slow down, yet I have learned how to breathe. I don't want my life to suddenly turn upside-down because something happens.
Yet, in the days to come I'll forget what it felt like to be in a potentially dangerous moment. I may not learn the lesson that came from this unfortunate experience (for the drivers, not really for me).
One takeaway, though, is that I'm not driving in the dark on rural roads any more.