On Saturday, Jan. 28, at 7:45 p.m., I died. Not many people can give such details. Let me explain.
It was a nice, spring-like day and I was feeling absolutely fantastic in the city that winter missed. I made arrangements with a friend to meet at my favorite restaurant on Transit Road in approximately 20 minutes. It was 7:30 p.m. when I left the house.
The roads were clear and free of most traffic that evening. I was listening to jazz and it was all good. I was cruising east on the 33, feeling great in my new ride, when I realized that I was going about 70 mph. I had always heard about "driver's trance" so I try to avoid it at all costs and remain focused. I slowed down to a controlled 60 mph and continued rolling right along. Left-hand lane all the way to the airport -- a straight shot. I love Buffalo for its short commutes.
I looked up and I saw an airplane approaching the runway, just as I was about to go under an overpass. I wasn't sure the plane would clear the overpass, so I checked my rear-view mirror to see if I just missed getting creamed. All was well -- no fireball back there.
I then changed lanes so I could bear off on Genesee Street going east toward Transit. I was still doing about 50 mph -- and, as God is my witness, I had not been in that center lane for more than a few seconds when all of a sudden I saw headlights coming at me around the bend, on my side of the expressway. All I could say was "what the --!" But I remained calm, or so I thought.
At night, it appeared to be head-on. I had only a split second to see it as it rounded the bend. The car was on the wrong side of the expressway, and it was moving at expressway speeds! The only thing that saved me was that I was not still in the left lane -- that errant car was in the lane I had just left.
I fumbled for my telephone -- I had to call 911 before someone was killed. It took me three tries to dial the number, I was shaking so badly. I finally got through. I never heard anything else about that driver, and he will probably never know the hell he put me through.
Then the thoughts started. My airbag could not have helped me in that situation. Swerving may have made the other driver crash into my side of the car, which would definitely be worse, if it could get any worse. It plays out over and over again in my mind. A split second -- that was too close.
I thank whoever was driving that car, and I thank God for the angels that watch over me. A blessing in disguise. That incident was my wake-up call. I had been cruising through life like there always would be a tomorrow. There'd be time.
I am now more intimately aware of the fact that no matter how nice the day or how good you feel, you should milk life every day for all that it's worth.
I now know what post-traumatic stress feels like. It will be a long time before I get this behind me. It's just so unbelievable that I would have been front page news on Sunday morning. It hasn't finished playing out in my mind -- and I need a good cry, for sure.
Bottom line, live all you can live. Life is truly too short. Do it now. And stay out of the fast lane at the end of the 33 -- you never know what is just around the bend.