Last night, while driving home from a food swap and cookbook signing in Scranton, PA, I nearly hit another car. I was on 76 East, so close to home, when a car suddenly pulled off the right shoulder and into my lane. I had to break suddenly and aggressively, slowing from a speedy 65 to right around 35 miles per hour in just a few seconds so that I didn’t crash into his bumper.
Everything from the backseat clattered into the footwells. I leaned on the horn and yelled. The other driver placidly moved into the left-hand lane and offered a casual wave while my adrenaline pumped and throbbed in my head.
Lately, I’ve been finding myself maddened by people as my life makes brief contact with theirs in the process of city living (this may have been the closest and most maddening call yet). Not my friends, family and acquaintances, but the strangers who fill this town. I don’t know if it’s the heat, the fact that I spend so much time by myself or simply that it’s my 11th summer in Philadelphia and the novelty of this aging east coast city is beginning to show cracks.
Last night, I didn’t see the car until I was right on top of him. He hadn’t signaled his intention to rejoin traffic, he just moved into my path. Once the panic subsided, I could see that there was a lesson tucked into my near-miss. A reminder to pay attention. To remember that I can’t control everything. That all I can truly manage are my responses to the events of life. I’m tired of feeling so inflamed and bristly, like a cat that has its hair raised in preparation for a fight. It’s time to try another way.