One of the worst car accidents I’ve ever seen happened on black ice. It was several years ago, in front of the school where I used to work. It was a cold morning, well below freezing, but there had been no precipitation for days and so there was no expectation of ice. It turned out that an in ground sprinkler system at the front of a neighborhood had ruptured, spilling water out onto the road in the predawn hours. The water soon froze in the frigid air, becoming an unseen sheet of ice under the shadow of trees. The location was particularly treacherous, as it was not only on a hill, but also an area where people braked hard to turn into the school.
From my vantage point at a red light a block away, I saw one car after another cross the slick terrain, lose control and barrel into oncoming traffic. The engines were revving faster than reaction times so the ping-pong actions of the cars went through several iterations before traffic came to a standstill. Thankfully, on the morning in question, there were no serious injuries, yet the damage was severe. Dozens of cars were totaled. A power line was down. An overturned milk truck’s spilled contents added to the icy mess. And the road was blocked for hours.
Yet nobody involved left their house that morning afraid of the roads. No one took precautions for potential ice. It was business as usual. Until it wasn’t.
I just returned from a walk around my area of iced-locked Atlanta. The roads are still covered in 1/4″ thick sheets of glassy ice, their sides (and sometimes centers) littered with abandoned cars and even school buses. But there is some traffic moving today, the cars carefully maintaining a steady speed and avoiding sudden turns. The folks out today knew to be cautious, the ice is a known danger and they are implementing proper precautions. There are certainly accidents occurring, but few of the severity of the one I witnessed years ago.
Life’s challenges often have this distinction. Some are unanticipated and unforeseeable while others are more easily anticipated. We often berate ourselves when faced with a challenge we did not forecast. I know I did that with my divorce, wasted energy wishing that I had seen it coming so that I could prepare my bug-out bag.
But would it really have been better if I had anticipated it?
Sometimes, even when we know a challenge is coming, we can not prevent it or, like the politicians in Atlanta this week, we take a gamble and choose to not implement those preventative measures. Just the knowledge that my marriage was ending may not have been enough to change the outcome. Or, perhaps I would have gambled on things working out and chosen not to prepare.
Regardless, like the drivers on the roads today, I would have been scared, aware of the potential dangers around every bend. I would have been wary of every step, armed with the knowledge that each one taken could be one that sweeps out my life from under me. Hell, let’s be honest. If I had known that the end of the marriage was in sight, I probably would have been so scared that I would have been frozen in place. Iced in.
Black ice is treacherous because of its ability to hide. Yet its rarity means that we don’t walk around fearing its danger.
It’s funny. I used to view the tsunami nature of the end as one of the worst parts. Now? I’m thankful for it. It was a helluva wreck, but at least I wasn’t scared to drive. And even though the damages were great, there were no fatalities.
Thankful to be warm and home after an adventurous trek home from work yesterday that included a three hour drive followed by a three hour hike (and an awesome husband that met me halfway on my walk with hiking boots and hot coffee!). Many in the metro were not so lucky and spent the night in stranded cars, schools or in emergency shelters. Even though the surrounding cities screwed this up, the stories of the individuals stepping up to help others is amazing. Challenges are so much easier when we have help.