There is a split-second for your body to prepare for the trauma before the car slams into your left side, and a leisurely ride into work on a sunny day becomes an exhausting and painful day at the hospital.
Your fight-or-flight instinct is sparked by the adrenaline pumping through your vulnerable shell: your heart pounds; your muscles tense; your awareness is heightened, just as the worst of your situation becomes the prime object of your focus.
The hood of the car is, all at once, a white blur streaking toward you, and also a crystal clear threat to your existence.
It’s a powerful scene in the movie Kingdom of Heaven, in which newly-minted Christian knight Balian (Orlando Bloom) releases into freedom ‘Saracen’ knight Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani…on account of his quality.
Balian had fought and defeated what he thought was Imad’s master, over a horse found on the master’s desert plot. Balian ordered Imad to take him to Jerusalem, but then released him and gifted him the horse.
“Your quality will be known among your enemies, before ever you meet them,” Imad says, before riding off.
He recognized the goodness (or at least capacity for mercy?) in Balian.
It wasn’t until long after the car had passed, and I had escaped unscathed, that I realized I hadn’t panicked. I remember hearing once that traffic incidents often happen near home, probably because we let our guards down.
Maybe that was in the back of my mind as I rode my scooter, on my street, three houses from my home, and I saw the headlights veering toward me. Cars park along one side of my street, so it’s not unusual for a car to drift farther than necessary. I watched closely though, shifting closer to the sidewalk on my side of the street. The headlights kept coming. The speed was noticeable. I moved even farther to the sidewalk. Then the headlights swerved quickly toward me, then away, and the car passed.
I stopped, letting my scooter lean beneath me toward the sidewalk as I looked at the car, waiting for some sign that the driver was aware. It appeared to run a stop sign and hurry away. After continuing home, and taking stock of what had happened, I realized: I didn’t panic.
It may seem like a silly thing to think about, “did I, or didn’t I, panic, and why, or why not?” But I’m very aware of how much control over my reactions I do or don’t have in situations. As a radio host, I’ve been told I’m uncannily cool under pressure, under deadline, under the constraints of a clock. The fact about radio, though, is whether or not I hit a post (speak within my allotted time) or not, is not a life or death matter. Of course I have pride in my work, a deep work ethic, and a desire to do my best for my listeners, employer, and self.
Editor’s note: Here are some past thoughts about living a Fourth away from home, from 4July2009. A new post will be coming soon.
Regular readers of AnthonyGanzer.com may be surprised by this, given my frequent jaunts to Europe over the last few years, but this is my first “Fourth of July” not on American soil. The “Fourth” has taken its hits as a holiday just as others have. Christmas was adorned with Santa and commercialism, Easter with rabbits and biologically inaccurate eggs, and the “Fourth” has its customary PBS concert specials and sales on charcoal briquettes–the things on which freedom was built, of course. And who can forget the elaborate fireworks displays, and toddlers running around with “harmless” sparklers in the front yard.
But even those subtle remembrances to our country’s founding are absent here in Germany, though a faint sense of patriotism still wafts in the air.