January 2015, DC Metro Yellow Line:
Just after L’Enfant station, the train jerked to a stop. It lurched and stalled again. It seemed like typical Metro — until smoke started seeping in. Curls wafted through the vents and door seams. First, it didn’t seem like a big deal, but it got thicker fast, and the train was still not moving.
It even got people to look up from their phones.
The Conductor announced: “The train will move shortly.” He hurried down the aisle instructing: “Stay put. It’s not a fire, just smoke… Nobody move. I’m backing the train to the station.” A few minutes passed. The train lurched and stopped. Smoke got thicker and the lights went out.
One man had enough. He cursed and tried to yank the doors apart. He kicked and beat on the window with fists and backpack. “LET ME OUT!” Others followed his example. Because of the tunnel, most people had no cell service. We were trapped in the dark, encased in thick smoke. I yelled to the people around me: “Get down. It’s clearer by the floor.” Those trying to open the doors gave up and slumped down.
Almost an hour later, a fire fighter showed up. He pointed down the car: “That way. Leave the big stuff. You can get it later.”
March 2017, Independence Ave., near the US Capitol:
The smell of diesel exhaust still brings back the memory. The bus wanted to be where I was. Trapped between the bus, the curb, and the Botanic Garden’s boulders, I lower my head, hang onto the handlebars, and hope for the best. The bus scrapes my elbow, latches onto a pannier, and launches me. The bike and I skid across the pavement and stop in the middle of Independence Avenue. Some women walking by help me up, move my bike, and call 911. I notice my thumb has popped open, like a Zippo lighter.
Not my best day bike riding, but I was in better shape than the woman hit by a car, who lay beside me in the trauma bay…
How did I not go under the wheels or get hit by another vehicle? How did my head and face survive when my helmet and eyeglasses broke?
Why didn’t I just ride on the sidewalk?
- What we expect: Life will proceed uneventfully. Most days, it happens the way we expect. Some days, not so much. Magical thinking is alive and well!
- What we encounter: Reality. That wasn’t quite how I expected my day to turn out. With a new experience, we try to fit it into an existing pattern. Sometimes, we just react to what’s in front of us.
- What we learn: As much as I realize its futility, I find myself fixating on “If only…” I second guess what I could have done, even though I know I can’t go back and change what I actually did.
When I was telling a friend about these episodes (including how I avoided a falling tree on the highway in 2016), he wanted to know my schedule to make sure he chose different modes of travel and routes. I see it differently. I survived encounters that could have been exit ramps, but ended up being only detours. If we travel together, maybe expect some interesting adventures, but we’ll be okay.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell
If I knew then, what I know now, I’d have done things differently. But, ha-ha. No do-overs. We never know what excitement lies ahead. We do the best we can with what we know at the time. And, next time – better.
Do you want to hear about what happened this past weekend? Maybe, another time …
© Joan S Grey, 30 April 2021 ∞
IndexCardCure™: Welcome second chances