I think, therefore I harm
Sunday, we had our first snow fall. Nothing that remained, but it snowed everyday since then. Some light snow, with the sun melting it again the same day.
Today was different though. I worked in a remote area where we hit an unexpected snow storm. Snow in November is normal. Snow storms, not so much. But conditions on the highway were so bad that we were driving at nearly half the speed limit, guessing were the lanes might be. The road hadn’t been plowed yet. I don’t think the storm was expected, even in that area.
At one point, a small Toyota was stopped on the side. Parked on the wrong side, and facing the wrong way. Obviously, that car had got out of control and slipped off the road. As I passed it slowly, I was able to see a distressed face on the young female driver. I decided to stop to see if I could be helpful.
I parked on the right side of the highway, being careful as I could not tell where the road ended and where the ditch began, but I later realized that I parked way too far from the border, likely slightly overlapping the right lane. I waited for a large truck to pass before I went out, and at that point remembered I had a safety vest in the trunk (which I previously needed for a particular task which I don’t perform anymore). I quickly grabbed the safety vest and put it on, waited for a few cars to go, than ran across the road and to the distressed car.
As I arrived, she lowered her window. I quickly checked that she was fine. I noticed the water in her eyes. She definitely needed assistance. She began to explain me something about some friend coming to help her, but I didn’t listen. The location was extremely dangerous. Because of the weather, drivers would not have much time to react after seeing her, and even then, with the slippery road, they might not be able to avoid her. My goal was to either get her car back on track, or to get her out of there quickly and abandon the car behind.
I walked around the car to check for damage and the young lady came out to accompany me. An insignificant piece of plastic had detached at the corner of the front bumper. I asked if that damage was there previously. She said it didn’t, and admitted she hadn’t yet went off the car to check. I could then figure she had slid off the road and hit the rail, after which the back of the car continued to slip so it ended up facing the traffic. I inspected the front wheels to make sure they were not damaged, and tested to ensure direction had not been affected. All that while checking for incoming traffic every few seconds, very conscious of the dangerous situation I was in. As everything appeared to be in working order, I was about to suggest that she gets back behind the wheel so I could help her through the traffic.
Then, it happened. As I turned my head to check for traffic, the trailer of a semi truck wasn’t trailing anymore. It had slid out of its lane and going toward us. I imagine the driver must have attempted to slow down when he noticed us, but temporarily lost control of his load. It didn’t take me very long to react. I’ve watched enough YouTube videos to know the situation was bad. These videos are always labeled for educational purpose, not entertainment, and I always found that funny as I can figure the vast majority of the viewers, me included, really are watching for the entertaining value. But I won’t laugh at it anymore, these videos are really educational.
With the large trailer sliding toward us and us standing in front of the car which was facing the traffic, I could already imagine the disgusted firefighters finding our remains between that trailer and that car, trying to figure out which parts belonged to whom.
Within a fraction of a second, I grabbed the girl and pushed her back toward the rail, yelling something like “watch out” (but likely unintelligible). By doing so, I lost my balance and realized we would not be able to jump over that rail, as I somehow intended to do. I checked back to see the truck going behind me, back into its lane, as if nothing had happened. I regained my balance by grabbing my self on the lady. She then stepped back and cried. Stress was just too much for her. She was totally out of control of the situation, didn’t know what to do, and likely had just realized how dangerous the place was.
As I turned around, I noticed my colleague had got out of the car and walked toward me. He was on the other side of the highway, waiting for the right time to cross. “Did you see that?”, I asked. He hadn’t, but quickly explained that he almost got hit by a car at the very same time he saw me push the girl toward the rail. I quickly assumed the truck must have had to avoid a car in the other lane, and that would be how it slid off.
The lady’s friend arrived to help. I told him the car appeared fine and we only needed to get it back on the road. He jumped behind the wheel. At that point, things worsened. My colleague and I realized that all of the traffic from the left lane was now moving close to the rail and toward us. I figured something (maybe some other car had slid out?) was blocking the other lane, forcing them to move. We must have looked like two guys just out of the psychiatric hospital, shaking our arms as fast and strong as possible to let them notice we were there. That lasted for maybe 20 seconds, though it appeared like an hour. Then, traffic got lighter and cars were driving in their lane again, and I never knew what was pushing them off the lane.
At that point, I asked the guy at the wheel to test direction and traction. I wanted to make sure the car wasn’t stuck in the snow, or that the direction wasn’t broken. My only accident caused almost no visible damage, but resulted in a ruined direction, so I must have been traumatized by the event. As he could not easily see the traffic because of the angle of the car, I told him to wait for my signal. I began watching the traffic, and I eventually noticed some of the incoming cars were slowing down as they noticed us. I jumped on the occasion and literally jumped in the middle of the highway to make them stop. Seconds later, the car was off the dangerous spot and parked correctly on the right side of the road, behind a few other cars which had apparently stopped to help too.
At that exact moment, a police car arrived, just when I was getting off the road and signaling cars to drive again. Now a funny thought crossed my mind. What I had just done was obviously illegal. I cannot stop the traffic on a highway, I do not have the authority to do so, and I could have caused a crash. Of course, I had been cautious and I had picked the right moment to do so, but it was still illegal. But I had fixed a dangerous situation. The worst was behind, nothing terrible had happened and I could breath again. I decided to just wait to see what the policeman would do. Things turn out good for good people, and he simply thanked me for what I did. He then proceeded to ask questions to the lady (make sure she was fine, she had not hit another car, …). Realizing the policeman wasn’t interested in me, I said I was leaving. The girl thanked us in a manner you are rarely thanked within a lifetime. I knew she was sincerely grateful for my assistance. But I had done my duty and really didn’t need anything. I welcomed her and walked toward my car.
I waited for traffic before I could leave. Another police car arrived and blocked the right lane traffic, giving me the chance to drive away.
A few seconds after being back on the highway, I began shaking. I had not realized that before, but I had had a rush of adrenaline, and it was now leaving my body. I was now realizing what I had just been through. And I was glad I did.
As we drove to our next destination, my colleagues were asking questions. Having been left in the car, they could not see much, other than how I suddenly, and without any reason they could see, jumped and pushed the girl toward the rail. Explaining the events was just what I needed to get it off my head. I was now terrified, realizing the events, and had I been alone in the car at that point, I would likely have had an attack and stopped somewhere.
At our destination, maybe ten minutes later, I would normally have taken a break for lunch. I didn’t. I needed to do something and I needed to be alone for a short while. I picked my tools and began working right away, to the surprise of my colleagues who know a different me. I had one picture in my head. A steady one. It wouldn’t go away. It was that of a large trailing slipping toward me. It wasn’t animated, as I didn’t watch it long enough to even see it move.
Hours later, this picture is still there. Like printed onto my retina. It’s less heavy, but it’s still there. As I arrived home, I had a single idea on my mind: to write this so I could sleep tonight.
Did I loose a life? Maybe. Maybe not. But I hope St-Peter will remember.
Connection: How Many of Your 9 Lives Are Left? by Heretherebespiders