I was involved in a car crash some time ago and it has left a scar. Although you can’t actually see this scar, it is very deep and has remained with me in a very tangible way. It has caused me to reflect about my life and to slow down, both literally and figuratively.
When you press your foot to the brake, you expect your car to stop; perhaps not instantly, but certainly in time to avoid an accident. You do not expect to feel your foot on the floor; you do not expect to hear the hiss of air escaping from the brake; you do not expect your wits to leave you, and your senses to heighten: to feel the stab of a jolt of adrenalin to your heart, to feel the hair on your body stand on end as your blood runs cold, to have your ears unclog and the deafening silence filled by terrified onlooker screams. You don’t expect to taste bile in your throat as you watch yourself speed toward the old woman who caused you to brake in the first place.
They say that nothing is faster than the speed of light, but when you press your brake you do not expect to see this woman’s long life flash before your eyes, and imagine your future brought low by a conviction for vehicular manslaughter. You do not anticipate your body’s lurch as you slam first into one car, and then into another; and you have no premonition of finding yourself accelerating backwards toward the rush of cars speeding down Constant Spring Road. You do not expect to make a hasty reconciliation with your God at age 36; you do not expect Him to turn the steering wheel for you and find yourself giving incredulous thanks when you come to rest by crashing into a building, rather than into a child and the group of Rastafarian leather-slipper vendors who were all just sitting there, plying their trade as usual on this once-beautiful Saturday morning. You do not expect to discover that, contrary to the news reports, not all Jamaican mobs are violent, or that you will be explaining yourself to the police this day. You do not expect to discover that your sister loves you, and that she will cry from relief, when she realises that the rumours of your death are greatly exaggerated.
When you press the brake of your car, you do not expect that it will end in a prayerful beseeching for forgiveness from God and from your neighbours. When you press your brake you do not expect that your car will become a mangled pile of scrap metal, or that your innocence and self-confidence will end up in tatters.
Pressing the brake of your car is not usually a life-altering event. It does not usually result in you becoming less smug about the news, about your self-importance, about your thoughts about other people and about life in general. It does not usually result in you becoming a kinder, in some ways, angrier in others, or more reflective person. It does not usually result in you questioning if you’re in the right job or working with the right people. Pressing the brake of your car is supposed to just cause your car to decelerate as you wish it. It is not supposed to inspire you to write, or to wonder how many other times you failed to give thanks for the blessing of an avoided accident that you received unknowingly.