Had the timing changed by a bare second last night, I might not be writing this today.
Shortly after midnight, I was driving south on 178th, heading across the bridge over the Yellowhead. My driver-side window was rolled down so I could enjoy the warm summer night; I was listening to one of the many variations of the Mission: Impossible theme on my phone.
I was moving at the speed limit, 60 kph, on a very fresh green light. I took note of a semi heading north, the only other traffic in my immediate vicinity; he moved into the opposite left-turn lane.
Since I had the right-of-way, I naturally assumed he would stop to let me proceed. Instead, he moved into the intersection like he hadn't seen me at all.
Earlier in the evening, the guys were explaining to Colin's son Avery that I cursed only under very specific conditions, and rarely. Last night gave me a new reason to bark a profane oath.
"HOLLLYYYYY SHIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTTT," I cried as I threw the car out of gear and stomped on the brake pedal harder than I've ever done before. The car's nose pitched downward so steeply that I thought my bumper was going to touch asphalt. There was a scream of protesting rubber, and I think that's what finally alerted the semi driver, who also slammed on his brakes. His cab bucked up and down violently.
We came to rest in perfect time with the final two notes of the Mission: Impossible theme. I'd applied my brakes perhaps two or three metres before the stop line; my car came to a halt perhaps a quarter of the way into the intersection. The semi was about halfway through. My left front corner was about two metres away from his right front corner. That sounds like a long way, but had our reactions been delayed by even an instant, the outcome would have been very different.
In silence, three or four seconds passed. The semi driver gave me a sheepish wave of apology; I waved back that I was okay. The light was still green; there was nothing more to do but proceed.
It was the closest call I've experienced in many years. I feel grateful to be alive today, and particularly grateful to my Kia's brakes, which performed with spectacular, life-saving aplomb.
Everything you are and everyone and everything you love can be taken away in an instant. Last night reminded me to relish every second.