A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
SKID MARKS ON PAVEMENT
A set of long, black skid marks on white concrete pavement told the sad story.
They started just before where the freeway barrier takes a sharp turn and continued south along the barrier wall for several hundred feet Ė jerking, bouncing and eventually disappearing at about the spot where the semi truck flipped over.
The crowd of paramedics, fire fighters and Highway Patrol officers had long since gone by the time I got there. The reporters and TV news crews had done their work and moved on to the next tragedy. Traffic, backed up for miles earlier in the morning, was flowing smoothly. Only the sound of cars and trucks whooshing by broke the eerie stillness that seemed to hang over the place where a man had died just a few hours earlier. Driving back along the road the man had traveled during his last few miles of mortality, I couldnít help but wonder what he was thinking as he passed by each landmark. Had he noticed this? Did he appreciate that? What radio station was he listening to? Were his thoughts focused on family and loved ones, or last nightís sports scores?
Seven miles up the road I noticed the first warning sign: curve ahead, prepare to slow. As I drove closer to the scene of the accident, more warning signs emerged. I had driven this route countless times, and to be perfectly honest, I hadnít really noticed the signs that clearly indicated the potential for trouble ahead. But they were there. Big as life. Sure as death.
Unfortunately, Iím not the only one who hadnít noticed them.
According to the Highway Patrol, the driver of the truck had been traveling at speeds in excess of 75 miles per hour Ė about 40 miles per hour faster than the posted warning sign indicated would be safe to traverse the curve. I drove it at 55 miles per hour, and it was all I could do to keep my little compact car on the road. Itís no wonder he lost control.
So sad. So tragic.
And thatís the most tragic part of the incident: it didnít have to happen. The warning signs were there. The curve can be safely driven Ė at a safe speed. If only the driver had been paying attention to the signs, and had heeded them. Tragedy could have been averted, and a life could have been preserved.
As I drove back to the office that day, I couldnít help but wonder how many warning signs I have been missing Ė or just flat out ignoring. Not just road signs, but other signs warning of the potential for disaster in my life. For example, my body has been telling me that Iím drinking way too much Dr Pepper these days, and Iím not getting nearly enough exercise. I can see the signs Ė all too clearly, Iím afraid Ė and yet what am I doing about it? Iím sitting here Ė and sitting and sitting and sitting Ė with a Dr Pepper on ice within armís reach.
The signs are there, but Iím not paying attention.
And Iím sure there are others Iím missing: in my relationship with my wife, in my relationship with my children, in my work, in my church, in my community. What opportunities are passing me by? What possibilities are just beyond my reach? What tragedies am I racing headlong into, regardless of the signs warning me of danger just ahead?
And what skid marks will I leave Ė long and black Ė on the concrete pavement of my life?
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--- © Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book,"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.