In a Craryville minute, it almost happened, or maybe it did . . .
In 2007-08 I worked a brief time at a place in Craryville. I would wake at 5AM, drive 55miles each way, when gas was $5 a gallon. The highway would be virtually empty as I drove through the pre-dawn darkness. I took 87, to I-90, then got on the Taconic Parkway for another 20miles. In one hour I would make work, as the sun came up. I liked the job, but the commute was brutal.
But the story doesn't begin there.
My 20’s were tough. It began with a tragedy in my personal life, ended with another, equally bad one. Obviously I was far less equipped to cope with the former, and I slipped into a 2 year depression at 20, a black out in my memory now. As I progressed through my 20’s, I felt like there was this bad-luck cloud parked over my head. I was frustrated a lot, confused. I had no idea which direction my life was going. By 2007 I had worked about 20 different jobs. I was in and out of school. I lived in an in-law apartment at my parents’ house. I don’t remember having any serious relationships in my early-mid 20’s, and my friends were moving ahead of me, professionally and personally.
Then it started to change, as it often does in life. I finished my master’s degree (if you met anybody who knew me at 20 they probably wouldn't believe I have a master’s degree) and got a job in my field. I moved out of my parents’ place, started getting things going, and I was satisfied for the first time, ready for what was next, instead of being afraid of it. It’s really wild how fast life can get good again if you just hold on.
Today I have so many of the things (personally and professionally) that I never thought would be mine. So often I say: This life was never meant for me. And I think that even more when I hear all the horror stories of job loss, lack of money, and hopelessness out there right now. And I say, “I was there. I sort of know that life, and I don’t want to go back.” When the small dreams come true the big, big dreams seem tangible. And then I wonder when, where, and how it changed for me, and I think back to that 5AM car ride to work in January 2008.
It was a foggy, dark mid-winter morning as I drove down the empty highway towards work. I got on the Taconic Parkway, continued south to the Craryville exit, same as every other day. There was so much fog, I had never seen it so thick. I remember that: the fog. 20minutes later, I got off the Taconic, drove over the winding ramp, came to a stop at Route 23E, the main road through Craryville. At the end of this ramp, I had to make a sharp left turn to go towards my job. Every day I triple checked to make sure no traffic was coming, because they booked it good on 23E.
It was all fog and darkness, but no cars, so I began left turning off the ramp, and that’s when a black car with no headlights came screaming out of the fog, going 70, 80MPH at least. I was in the middle of the lane, finishing my turn, and had no chance: I was a sitting duck in my silver Ford Focus, a dead duck. The driver blared his horn, slammed the brakes, and I froze, just stopped. That thing about your whole life flashing before your eyes happened to me, I swear, but it was calm, light, comfortable. There were no two ways about it: My life was coming to an abrupt end, right then and there, same way it does tragically for thousands of motorists every day.
The oncoming car was all over me, horns and brakes raging through my ears and brain. Then, nanoseconds from a life-shattering T-bone collision at 80MPH, the car with no headlights simply vanished . . . No horn, no squealing brakes, no nothing. Silence. It just vanished, and I was on that dark, foggy road alone. I swear it up and down, that car vanished into thin air, believe it or not. Just vanished . . .
I remember being really shook up for the rest of the day, but not out of my mind about it, almost like I rolled with what just happened, learned from it, survived it. But I do remember thinking and deciding that near accident, that would’ve been 100% fatal, would be/was the turning point in my life and luck. I mean, jez, a week later, the NYG’s won the Super Bowl. And, seemingly, my life has been on an upswing since, road bumps and sadness along the way of course, but my focus and outlook have been positive, a real can-do sort of thinking. So often I tell friends about that day on Route 23E, and I describe it as the day my life got going on the right track, the turning point, the wake-up moment. That day was my Craryville moment, everything changed. A month later I traded that silver Focus in, upgraded to something new.
Last weekend, as I retold my Route 23E story to another couple, friends of ours, while out at dinner, how that car was barreling towards me, how I sat frozen in my silver Focus, sideways on the road, my fate sealed, how the oncoming car just . . . , something else occurred to me for the first time, the thought like a sledgehammer to the brain. And I said to myself: “Come on, Brian, cars don’t vanish.” And then I thought, for the first time: Maybe that car never vanished at all . . .
Dedicated to my Craryville colleague: JoAnna W. Long time no hear.
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