Last Friday, on the morning of Friday the thirteenth no less, I came close to being in a serious automobile accident -- with both my sons in the backseat of the car. I had woken up exhausted and looking forward to the end of what had been a difficult work week. My usual obsessive concern about the children getting to school on time gave way to a carefree sense of "Ah, it's Friday. We've been early every day this week, so screw it. If they're a couple of minutes late, we'll live with that."
Lately I've been taking a new route, introduced by a friend, that takes me through the farmlands of "Old Manor," both to the boy's school and then to my job.
That morning, we were in the middle of the usual banter, with their music blaring through the car speakers. (I tolerate KISS-FM," or whatever it is until they get out, then switch back to KGSR -- my station.)
Rihanna or Katy Perry or somebody was emoting to a heavy beat, and we were talking about the likelihood of extraterrestrial aliens coming to our town, when I absentmindedly took a right on Fuchs Grove Road, which took us toward my job, rather than left to their school.
"Don't worry," I said, "I'll just turn around here. I don't think you'd have been on time anyway. It's already one minute past the late bell."
At that very moment -- 7:41 in the morning on Friday the 13th -- I made a leisurely broken U-Turn, and as I made a left onto the normally barren road, I totally failed to see a blue sedan coming at us in the right lane, at full speed.
Rather than lean on the horn, the driver did what most people do here instead: he flashed the headlights at me. I floored it and luckily no one was coming from the other direction. We made it out unscathed, the sound of the other car's tires skidding to slow down behind me. I watched him right himself and continue driving away in my rear view mirror.
"Holy shit we almost died," I said without irony. It was a moment of complete, unabashed, breathless sincerity.
The boys found this hilarious, of course, and giggled at my having uttered "the S word." My heart felt like it would leap up my throat and out my mouth, and I couldn't stop apologizing to my sons in the back.
"It's okay, Daddy," Jackson reassured me. "Nothing happened. We're all okay."
I knew that I had been granted a major reprieve, and that had the stars been aligned to even the slightest variation of where they were at that terrifying moment, my world, and that of my entire family, could have been changed forever. I had to shake off the urge to imagine the unthinkable -- shattered glass, misshapen metal, children's bodies broken, all because a weary father didn't do the one thing he consistently tells the boys to do -- look both ways when they cross the street.