Tuning Into Your Surroundings

As we are moving into Fall, it is important that we constantly remind ourselves that it is getting dark earlier.  I don’t mind running in the dark but, unlike winter, fall nights can be pitch black as there isn’t any snow for the light to reflect from.  I am careful to run as early as I can after work, wear visible clothing, and not take chances.

Over the past several weeks, the Town has been resurfacing Upper Middle Road, a major road which runs across our little piece of suburbia.  Multi-bar crosswalks, the kind that reminds me of a Beatles’ album cover, have appeared at many intersections along it.  The first morning I saw them, I was blinded by their whiteness and complained about how ugly they were.  That same evening, though, when finishing a run, I realized that I would be that much more visible to cars when I cross those intersections; without a doubt, the bright white lines were going to make things safer.

“Beatle Bars” along Upper Middle, designed to make pedestrians more visible at night.

Tonight, Kelly-Lynne arrived at my house for an easy run.  It was still early (6:3o) and we planned to be finished before dark.  In true training partner style, we laughed as we greeted each other in bright pink shirts; apparently, we both knew that we needed to make ourselves visible to traffic.   Kelly-Lynne and I spent a good chunk of time running on sidewalks; we ran facing traffic when we took the road.  With less than a mile to go, we came to a red light at one of the “new” corners of Upper Middle Road.  Both of us stopped, made eye contact with drivers to make sure that they saw us, and ran across the “Beatle Bars” to the opposite side.  The light turned yellow while we were crossing and red – just as we were reaching the other side.

I had just put my left foot down on the sidewalk when a car rushed through a right turn on a red light, barely missing my right leg.  I screamed ‘Hey!’ and looked at Kelly-Lynne, who was on my left and she also jumped out of its way.  A lady who was walking two dogs gasped, yelled or somehow reacted as I bolted after the car, wanting to get its license plate; to my surprise, the driver pulled over and stopped.

“You need to watch where you are turning!” I yelled at her.

“I know.  I am sorry.”  The driver was in her 50’s or 60’s and had a man, possibly her son, in the passenger seat.

“You nearly hit my friend!”

“I know.  I don’t know how I missed you girls; you’re in bright colours.  I was distracted.  Is your friend okay?”  I looked at Kelly-Lynne, asked if she was okay, and she was fine.  I was fine.  Fortunately, neither of us got hurt but this woman made a right turn on a red light without stopping, nearly hit us, and that was not okay.  I was angry.  I looked at the man in the passenger seat again and realized that he was probably the source of distraction.  He showed no emotion – no reaction whatsoever.  Suddenly, I felt sorry for her.  I was still angry, but I got it.  And she stopped when she could have kept going.

“You need to slow down,” I said.  I wasn’t yelling anymore; at least, I don’t think I was.  I felt calmer, still angry but calmer.

“I know,” she repeated.  “I’m sorry.  I was distracted.”

“You need to slow down.  Nothing is worth rushing through a light for.  Nothing.  Just be careful.”

“I know.”

“Be careful,”  I repeated and I turned from her so that she could drive away.  When I got back to Kelly-Lynne, I repeated our conversation.  Kelly-Lynne told me that the driver in the car behind told her, “You girls were absolutely right.”

And we were.  We did everything right.  We wore the right colours and we crossed at the light.  We didn’t take chances.  But more important than anything else is we were paying attention to what was going on around us and that let us react.  Truthfully, I have never felt that I have been in that much danger before; I can still feel the car brushing against my right side as I write this.

Tonight, Kelly-Lynne went home to her husband and I tucked my boys in bed.  A split second could have left this with a different ending.