This past week has not been pretty.
Aside from a call to the poisons information centre, three visits to the dentist, one to a paediatric physiotherapist, one to my psychologist, recalcitrance and poor behaviour from me and my children, it also included a near fatal accident.
I nearly killed a young man at the beginning of this week.
And I did not want to write about it. The shame and incomprehension of this close call burn me in waves. But this incident bore a loud message, which I did want to write about.
On the first day back of school after months of lock down, I hadn’t planned to drive my children to their schools. We are walking distance from both. But time does strange things on school mornings. It slithers away at warped speed and suddenly, the window to comfortably walk to school on time slams shut. So, I drove them, on the proviso that this was going to be an exception.
Driving conditions during isolation have been muted. The amount of traffic diminished to that of a tiny country town in the middle of the night. School traffic ceased. Work commuter numbers slashed.
On that first day back at school, cars converged on the local streets and clustered around the schools like flies on a carcass. Drivers were filled with more emotion than a regular school drop off warrants. Joy. Fear. Dread.
My feelings? Happiness over the end to at home learning mixed with mild irritation at not having managed to get both kids out the door on foot on time. And once I’d dropped them, an urgent need to get back home and away from the chaotic traffic.
Impatience bloomed. I decided to make a right turn from a side street onto the main road across two lanes of traffic, to get me home more quickly than a series of left turns would have. The car in front of me went during a break in traffic in the first lane and was let in by a driver in the second lane.
I could see the same driver in the second lane holding a space for me to cross. So, I went.
I don’t remember if I glanced to my right to check the first lane was still clear. But the moment I slammed on my brakes and a young man on a red motorcycle had to swerve to avoid me, is burnt into the pit of my stomach.
I am a careful driver. In over 25 years on the road I have never had a serious accident. I have never driven drunk or while under the influence of prescription medication or non prescription drugs. I don’t text and drive. I was not sleep deprived or sick that morning.
So why this serious error in judgement?
But there was more to it. While we have been in isolation, our worlds shrunk to our homes and occasional short car trips on empty roads, it has almost been like a lengthy period of hospitalisation.
I know from all the times I have discharged from hospital after weeks inside that just because I am out of hospital, my life doesn’t just snap back into place. I have to put the pieces of it carefully back together.
Re-entry into the world after isolation is the same. Our reflexes are slower. We are more vulnerable to chaos.
I am not nostalgic for isolation time. I don’t want to regress into the woolliness of those early iso days, drifting down deserted streets, staring perplexed at empty toilet paper shelves surrounded by people with harried expressions behaving as though the world was ending.
I will be very happy to never again step into the uncomfortable ill-fitting role of someone attempting to assist with my children’s at home learning.
But the jolt of re-entry has been a wake up call. A wake up call that I need to take the time to consciously reintegrate after this most bizarre episode of ‘home hospitalisation’. My brain and body need some adjustment time. My children’s brains and bodies need some adjustment time.
Perhaps the most poignant aspect of my near miss accident happened immediately afterwards. The young man on the motorbike pulled over and came up to my car. I wound down the window ready for, and feeling deserving of, his abuse and anger.
He didn’t abuse me or even swear.
He asked: ‘Did you not see me, because that was really close?’
All I could say was: ‘No, and I am so, so sorry. I am so sorry.’
I will never forget the young man’s face, his emotional intelligence and compassion in an adrenalin soaked moment. And I will never forget his parting words:
‘Be careful out there.’
We need to collectively ‘be careful out there’ as we re-integrate after isolation or we will misjudge situations and possibly make fatal errors.
The other lesson learnt the hard way by another member of the family this week (and one I doubt has anything to do with reintegration) was not to open a tube of superglue with your teeth.
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