Just for a second

84eastOne second we were all humming down the 84 in Livermore at 45 mph. The next second the brake lights are all lit up and we are grinding to a halt. I edge over to the right side of the two-lane road to see what’s going on. Four cars ahead of me, I could see a white pick-up truck flipped completely over in the ditch with it’s back tire still spinning in mid-air. I pulled over, hit my hazard lights and ran in my dress shoes to see if I could help.

When you approach a wreck like this, you never know what you’re going to discover. I held my breath as I bent down to look in the cab with two other guys who just arrived. Luckily the window was down and we could communicate with the driver, who was conscious, upside down and trying to free himself from his seatbelt. The guy next to me shouted, “We need to get you away from the vehicle!”

The man did not speak, but worked his body closer to the window. We each grabbed an arm and helped him slowly squeeze his body free from the wreckage. I was surprised as he stood right up and brushed off his oversized flannel shirt. He was in his late 60s, with a short grey beard and rough blue collar hands. I could tell he was a handyman by all the tools, paintbrushes and supplies strewn across the road and into the ditch where the truck landed.

Another bystander called 911. We got him several yards away and sat him down on a flipped over white laundry basket that had flown out of the back of his truck. The other guys just went back to their cars, as if to escape the scene before the emergency responders blocked the road. The man was obviously in shock so I didn’t want to leave him alone. I put my arm around him and talked to him. His name was Louie, and he seemed to be a lot more concerned about his truck than himself.

I asked him if he remembered what happened. He pointed to the grooves cut into the road between the yellow lines, meant to alert drivers who might be drifting into the other lane. He looked down at his work boots and shook his head slowly. “I looked away. I just looked away for a second.” He described how he had heard the noise, looked up and overcorrected to the right. I could see the telltale tracks in the muddy grass and the place where his tires fell off the uneven shoulder and he lost control in the steep ditch.

The firemen, police and paramedics came on the scene a short time later and I relayed what I learned as they took over. I really felt for Louie and I hope he’s OK. I got back in my car and continued my own commute, but I could not forget what he told me, “I looked away… just for a second.”

I think that’s the lesson I was meant to learn this morning: Safe driving requires focus. I thought about all the times when I quickly look down at my phone or fiddle with the radio or a cup of coffee. It takes just a second for something to go terribly wrong on the road. Be safe, my friends. And pass this story on to someone you love.

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5 Comments on “Just for a second”

  1. Doug Says:

    Dave, this is about more than just driving. This is about focus. It doesn’t matter what “road” you’re on. A successful marriage? Stay focused and don’t “look away”. Raising kids? Stay focused and don’t “look away”. Exercise and healthy living? Stay focused. Working hard and earning just rewards? Stay focused. Heaven? Stay focused.

    Don’t let anything distract you from what’s important in life.

  2. Jim Says:

    It only took you a second to make a decision to see if you could help your fellow man. You and the other helpers performed an act of kindness for a stranger who will never forget what happened. He is lucky you were focused on what`s important in life!


  3. I am singing with the choir here with what Doug & Jim are saying. This applies to much more than driving – this applies to life ACROSS THE BOARD. If you were to ask parents of a missing child what they would do having that extra ONE SECOND….to turn around and see where their child is instead of getting distracted in a mall – they might still be here. If you were to ask the family who left a candle unattended if they had stopped in their tracks for ONE SECOND – they may not have lost a family member’s life or their home. The list goes on… every decision in life depends on that ONE second… if we lose focus on it,lose our sense of awareness, lose our conscious mind and being – we will lose so much more than we realize. This is why is is vital to live in the PRESENT MOMENT at all times and be aware of everything we can. Today is all we have.

  4. John Says:

    So glad that people of character like you were there to help!

  5. Roland Says:

    Very interesting subject. I believe the main target of focus could be what Stacey mentioned – being “in the present moment.” However, sometimes our creative thoughts, or involvement with details, or even a crossword puzzle can take us out of the conscious loop of awareness adjacent to one’s self. I must believe that your subject, Dave, encroaches upon spiritual essence. Being spiritually aligned and connected is what some would say “placed you and other caring folk there at the scene,” and “everything happens for a reason,” perhaps beyond that which is obvious. So, what is the real substance of what is going on in emergency circumstances such as these? There is a spiritual magnetism that intricately involves each and every one of us that assists in the orchestration of every scene, chapter, and all of our stories as they are woven together. But the bottom line is our spiritual nature, and our character, and how we respond when the heart calls, and the choices we make…the easy ones, and the tougher ones that may require instant action such as your experience..


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