It is easy to take things like traction for granted. We travel thousands of miles and things work as they should, with the laws of gravity working. Our feet or tires or whatever remain firmly attached to the ground. Then something little happens and throws us into a panic and we realize how close to the border of chaos we all walk on a daily basis.
It was raining the other night. Not the normal sprinkle, but a good, hard downpour. I was traveling on the yon side of hither and yon... heading home in the dark. I hit the puddle on the side of the road going about 60. And suddenly I wasn't attached to gravity any longer. I was airborne... riding a wave a fraction of an inch thick, no longer in control... but subject, instead, to the whims of momentum. I have hit puddles many times before. A few feet of water that tugs the wheel hard for a moment. I have driven on highways where a car beside me has sprayed me with a coating of water so deep that I was blinded for moments. But nothing quite like this. The puddle must have been 50 feet or more.
They say war is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. I think this is true of many things in life. We grow comfortable and complacent in the sameness and only when things upset our carefully organized world does that panic rise, like bile, and overtake us. With age comes the knowledge that an instant can change everything. With age the knowledge of consequence. And a knowledge that we are only mortal.
But with age comes patience. The understanding that ups are followed by downs... and downs are followed by ups. And that if you fight your body's natural panic reflex and stay relaxed... sanity will be restored.
In this case it probably only took a few seconds... a few seconds where I was driving a missile and fighting to edge it in the right direction despite its desire to pull me off the embankment into the dark. Sometimes it takes much longer for sanity to be restored. But panic only makes us pull the wheel harder and lose control before sanity can regain that control.
Chaos is always a few feet to the right... down an embankment. It is easier to just ignore it and follow the lights down the road... between the white lines where all makes sense. But we can only maintain the road if we override the panic with calm.
On Becoming My Grandmother
2 weeks ago