A few days ago, I came within a couple of inches of hitting a pedestrian.
I was waiting at a stop sign, making a right-hand turn into traffic, watching for a break in the cars approaching from the left. A six-foot fence wraps around the corner to my right, and so when I’d pulled up to the intersection, I hadn’t seen anybody coming. As the break in the traffic made its way to me, I pulled out — barely missing the guy who had just crossed in front of my car from the right.
He gave me the look I’ve given any number of drivers who have been stupidly unaware of pedestrians around them, a lingering, accusatory glare. And my blood ran completely cold.
I haven’t been able to get that look, or that moment, out of my mind since. In my defense, I’ll say that I was always taught that, as a pedestrian, you never take anything for granted, and particularly not that a driver has seen you. If there’s any question — for instance, if you’ve just popped out from behind a tall fence and the driver of the car half pulled-out and inching forward at the corner is clearly staring over her left shoulder and hasn’t made eye contact with you at all — then you either wait, or you cross behind the car.*
So while I’m not willing to accept one hundred percent of the blame for this horror in the making, the fact remains that I was the one wielding the twenty-three hundred pound deadly weapon, and so it was incumbent on me to make sure that it wasn’t pointed directly at anybody. And I just can’t get the image of what could have happened out of my head.
I’ve had accidents before, though not for many, many years. [Insert mpeg of me knocking on desk.] And I’ve occasionally made stupid, dangerous mistakes behind the wheel, had moments at which I’ve escaped a crack-up only through fast reflexes, or dumb luck, or both. But I’ve never come anywhere close to the sickening metal-on-flesh reality of a vehicle-pedestrian accident before, and I have to say that having come as close as I did is really freaking my shit the fuck out.
*The only exception to the rule of pre-crossing pedestrian-driver eye contact, and it’s a major one, arises in crossing pretty much any street in Manhattan. When you’ve got the WALK, you go — no looking. And god help you if you make eye contact with a turning cab driver: once they know you’ve seen them, they assume you’re planning on letting them go.