Near misses

Last night, while driving in a relatively unfamiliar area in the northern suburbs of St. Paul, I nearly died. Well, OK, I’m not sure I was that close to dying, but a fraction of a second was the difference between today being another ordinary day and being one spent in ICU or the morgue.

I was heading west on Ramsey County 96, about to make a left turn onto the southbound I-35W onramp. Highway 96 is a 4-lane divided highway at this point, and with some construction in the area, the interchange has recently been made into a 4-way stop. As I approached the intersection I stopped, observing a semi slowing to a stop in the oncoming right-hand lane. I arrived at the intersection first, so I began my left turn. Just as I was entering the intersection, an SUV blew through in the oncoming left-hand lane, oblivious to the stop sign, obscured by the semi. I slammed hard on my brakes (and almost as hard on the horn). They honked at me too, apparently blaming me for observing the stop sign they were unaware existed. I escaped unscathed, though I’m not sure how close we came to a collision. 4 or 5 feet, probably. Not a razor-thin margin, but with the SUV traveling at least 50 MPH, it was still too close for comfort. (And I don’t mean this.)

We all encounter varying degrees of “near misses” every day. Only rarely are they so clear and obvious that we are shaken by them, and even then, things quickly return to normal. We are a resilient species. We have to be, to survive. But there’s a downside to that resilience. It’s easy to forget just how precious our days are, and how soon they will be gone.

My near miss last night has me thinking more about what’s really important, and wanting to spend my time only on those important things as much as possible. That doesn’t mean working crazy hours or having life-changing experiences every moment. But it does mean spending less time worrying about things that don’t really matter, and making choices that make each day better instead of worse.

Don’t worry, and don’t regret. Take chances. Go after opportunities. Make things happen.

I’m still here. For now. And if you’re reading this, you are too. Let’s do this. Don’t stop. Except at stop signs.