Thursday, March 27, 2008

A bunny, a bag and a barrel

A few years ago when my son was trying out a semester at Northern Michigan University up in Marquette, we decided to take a trip up to see him. It is about an 8 hour drive from Grand Rapids if you go the speed limit. It takes about 4 hours to get to the Mackinaw Bridge and then about 4 more hours on two lane highways from that point to get to Marquette.

We left right after work on a Friday night. My husband drove the first 4 hours and then just over the bridge turned the driving over to me. It was black as pitch up there. The cities, or should I say towns, are few and far between so there are no city lights to speak of. We were enveloped in darkness with only my headlights cutting a path into the future. An occasional car would pass going in the other direction.

I'll be the first to admit that my depth perception has never ever been good which is a handicap when driving. My night vision is not good either and only has gotten worse as I've gotten older. So all of these physical limitations sort of exacerbated the difficulties I was having driving that not. Not to mention I was pretty tired from already having put in a long day at work.

Anyway, it was probably about midnight. I was driving around 60 miles an hour when all of a sudden, directly in front of me, a bunny was staring at me. It was up on it's hind quarters and you could tell by the stare that it was mesmerized by my car head lights. I have no idea how far away it was because as I've mentioned, my depth perception really sucks.

I had a choice to make. I could swerve to the left and hope the bunny didn't hop in that direction too. But I risked losing control of the vehicle if I did that since I was going pretty fast. Or I even risked hitting an on-coming vehicle if one suddenly appeared over the hill. The other choice I thought of in that split second was to just continue forward and pray that the bunny run out of my way in either direction. I chose the second option, held my breath and continued straight forward. I stared at the bunny. The bunny stared at me. A loud thump*/splat sound by the bunny/car impact and a loud scream by me pierced the silence of the night and scared all of my passengers awake.

I was heart sick to have killed an innocent animal but worse than that this incident really shook me up. Only about a year before my mom and dad were in a horrible car crash when they were hit head on by a drunk driver. My dad died on impact. My mom survived but the accident has taken years of vitality aware from her. Anyway, the correlation here is that the second I hit that bunny rabbit an instantaneous vision appeared in my mind of what it must have been like to be my dad driving along in his car with the headlights of a drunk driver aimed straight at you. The accident scene showed how far to the right my dad tried to swerve to avoid being hit and without going down into the ditch to maintain control of the vehicle. If it weren't for this I'm sure my mom would have been killed too but because of dad's quick thinking or instinctive driving reactions, it was the drivers side of the vehicle that bore the brunt of the impact.

It was like I was the drunk driver and the bunny was my dad. I know. How stupid. Right? But the visual image was so powerful in that moment that I was really shook up. Plus I gave my passengers a heart attack.

I still had about 2 hours of driving left from that point. An uneventful hour passed. I was fighting sleep to stay alert at the wheel, it was probably about 1:00 a.m. now. The bunny incident had left me so skittish that my nerves were on edge. Just then, out of nowhere a black figure appeared in front of my head lights. My heart was pounding. This time I had no time to think of options. Just as I started to instinctively tap the brakes I hit the dark object it!!! Straight on!!! The garbage bag undulated and hovered before me and then was swept away in a whirlwind; caught between the gentle night breeze and the forceful airflow caused by my car. My heart skipped a few more beats. The passengers all woke with a start. They were quickly losing faith in my driving skills. Geez but the phsycological damage that darn garbage bag caused!

We were almost there, about 15 minutes and we would have finally arrived to our desination city of Marquette. It was almost 2:00 a.m. and I was going about 40 mph. All of a sudden I found myself in a construction zone. Once again I was caught off guard due to the circumstances; it was dark, it was late, I was tired, I have no depth perception and I did not anticpate the unexpected construction barrels. The car knicked one of the barrels. I jerked the steering wheel to the right to avoid hitting any more. My heart skipped another few beats, the barrel rolled out of sight and the passengers awoke with a jolt. Good thing we were almost there!

I never new "B" objects were so dangerous.

*Gives a new meaning to the name of Thumper

2 comments:

EvilJoy said...

Yeah, we would have switched as drivers right after the bunny incident!

Ritamae said...

eviljoy,

Sure wish you had been there to switch with. I would have taken you up on your offer.