Allow me, if you will, to tell you a true story. I was on my way back to The Review office in downtown East Liverpool at about 5:30 in the afternoon of March 11 following lunch/dinner break in Calcutta. I stopped by Tim Horton's and grabbed an extra large coffee, as per my usual post-lunch routine.
The sun was shining softly through the sun roof of my car, the radio droned, and the hot coffee sank gently down into my full stomach. As much as I hate to admit it, it was one of those drives where you become lost in thought and drive as though you are in some sort of bizarre driving-induced trance. I realize this may sound grossly irresponsible and frightening to know I am out there driving around in a semi-lucid state, but, if it's any consolation, I know several people who have confirmed this strange type of behind-the-wheel-hypnosis occasionally happens to them too.
Anyway, as I hung a right onto St. Clair Avenue and began to make my way south toward downtown, I accelerated through the first bend, making my way up the first hill on St. Clair just before McGuffey Drive. What happened next took place over the course of a maximum three seconds.
In my zombified driving trance a dull sense of danger registered as I rounded the bend: Something was wrong with the Ford Ranger coming in the opposite direction. It was pitched forward awkwardly, skittering about the roadway wildly, and spitting out a stream of vibrantly colored orange sparks. Some bit of basic, animalistic self-preservation instinct kicked in, rudely jarring me out of my pleasant pondering. Simultaneously my sluggish brain determined the Ranger had lost its front driver's side tire and was careening down the hill out of control.
I gawked in disbelief-the quintessential deer in the headlights look. At that moment, something in the foreground of this scene caught my eye - directly in front of me in fact. It was short, darkly colored and heading right at me: it was the truck's front tire. I won't repeat the word I shouted as I jerked the wheel hard to the right and winced in anticipation of the impact.
The impact never came.
I would like to tell you I missed colliding with the runaway tire because of some action-hero-like reflexes but it was just plain old dumb luck: I picked right and the tire went left.
Just as quickly as the situation had arisen it was over and I was once again breezing down St. Clair toward downtown. I had only enough time to glance in my rearview mirror and see the gentleman driving the Ranger grind to a halt and kick open his door. I learned by reading the police report the next day that he was thankfully not hurt. However, the renegade tire I had narrowly avoided proceeded to roll down the hill to the intersection of 170 and St. Clair and strike another vehicle.
I knew I didn't like the looks of that tire.
Anyway, my point is this: all it takes is one second to kill or injure yourself or others when you are behind the wheel of a car. I know that falls in the cliche category, but like most of them it reaches cliche status because it carries some essential element of truth.
As I drove from the scene of the aforementioned close call, it began to sink in just how lucky I was. It's so easy to become jaded about driving and forget about the realities of operating a car. When you drive every day you begin to neglect the fact that you are constantly surrounded by forces that could kill or at the very least seriously injure you or somebody else.
I was an English major in college so I won't attempt to explain the physics behind forces involved, but I do know that when two fast-moving objects collide nothing good ever happens. One second of fumbling for a dropped phone or of daydreaming about who-knows-what and your family could be receiving a surreal, life-altering phone call.
While I never enjoy a brush with disaster or death, incidents like this help me shake my sense of complacency when it comes to driving. They help me remember that all it takes is one second.
(Devin Bezeredi is a reporter for The Review. Reach him at email@example.com)