I love the Quora site as a source of writing exercises. The site’s modus operandi is to throw out questions and ask people to respond with little essays.
Because they open the questions to everyone who signs up, of course this MO generates a spectacular amount of stupid trolling from real or de facto eight-year-olds. Some people never do grow up. 😀
However, every now and again someone poses a query that functions handsomely as a writing prompt. One such was this:
What Was Your Most Frightening Moment?
There’s something wrong with me, I guess, that causes me not to get scared until after the fact. It’s ever been thus…the first time I understood that was what happened occurred when the driver of a steam roller almost ran me down as he was flattening asphalt in an alley behind our house. I managed to jump onto a fence and haul myself out of the way, feeling the thing brush my clothes. Not scared till a few minutes later, after I realized how close to death I’d come. I was a little kid: 8 or 10 years old.
Adrenaline makes my world slow down. One day I was driving in to my first job from a suburb. At the time, you had to drive several miles across a country road through cotton and onion fields. A dumb kid, I was flying low across this two-lane road, driving a ’67 Ford Fairlane, one of the most dangerous pieces of junk ever conceived by an American carmaker. From the right, some farm worker ambles onto the road — he doesn’t see me coming and now he’s smack in front of me and I’m going 60 miles an hour. Or more.
I slam on the brakes. In those days there was no such thing as anti-lock brakes. Or adequate seat belts. Or air bags. Or any other such debris. And I’m a kid, remember: a dumb one, at that. I don’t know any better than to tromp the brake pedal to the floor.
The car actually JUMPS into the air. No Joke! It leaps into the air and comes down in the oncoming lane, its wheels presumably still spinning at 60 miles an hour. I look up and there’s a car in the oncoming lane, flying straight at me, a horrified look on its all-too-visible driver’s face.
At this point a series of thoughts goes through my mind.
The clown who pulled out in front of me is now in the lane that my car leapt out of. He’s moving right beside me, fast as he can go because of course he figures he’s about to get smashed, too. The choices are three:
• Pull my car back into my lane and broadside the guy beside me.
• Pull left onto the left-hand shoulder and pray the guy in the oncoming car doesn’t also try to pull off the road.
• Head-on the guy in the oncoming lane.
Literally, I’m thinking this stuff through: it’s weird how clearly you can think and how fast you can think, given a large enough dose of adrenaline.
I decide on option (b): Pull off the road to the left. At 60 miles an hour.
Well, probably a little slower than that, because of course I have slammed on the brakes at one point…to little avail. The car is probably moving at about 40 to 50 mph at this point.
Incredibly, the dirt on the shoulder was hard enough that the car’s wheels didn’t sink into it.
Incredibly, the guy in the oncoming lane didn’t think fast enough to pull his car to his right, onto the same shoulder.
Incredibly, my car did not careen into the irrigation ditch beside the road.
Incredibly, my car did not spin out.
There’s only one explanation: God was on my side that morning. And on those other two guys’ side.
No, I was not scared at any time while this antic was occurring. Only after the other two cars sailed off and I caught my breath did a moment of terror arrive. I managed to make it to a gas station at the intersection of the country lane and a freeway, where I had to stop, go inside, and sit for a good half-hour or 45 minutes before I could get back in the car and proceed to work.
Not a bad little squib, eh?
Et vous? What was your most terrifying moment?