October 24 – thinnest of margins

thinnest of margins
my life didn’t change today
whale ropes, driving

Driving home on I85 in Gwinnett County, Georgia, I made the simplest of lane changes.

Going to my left with the car in front moving at my same speed, I checked my left side view mirror and glanced at my rear view mirror and started to merge slowly into the next lane.

I looked up and the car in front had stopped, most unexpectedly.

Instead of a smooth, gradual slide to the left, I jerked the steering wheel and the car swerved hard to left.

I reversed the wheel to the right and straightened out in my new lane, moving past the stopped car that had been in front of me.

It had to have been all by instinct.

They say that the time it takes for a batter to decide to swing at a baseball is longer than it takes for a pitched ball to travel 60 feet 6 inches.

Baseball is a game of inches.

I doubt there was room for a folded over piece of paper between my right front bumper and that car’s left rear corner.

A whisker.

A hair breadth.

And I was on my way home.

The driver of the car in front of me was on their home.

No accident.

No stopping of rush hour traffic.

No exchange of paper work.

No waiting for cops to determine who was at fault.


Nothing worse than a bad scare.

The scare was bad enough.

It was several minutes before I could relax and say a quick prayer of thanks.

I have been in an accident where the margin went the other way and the car coming up from behind me barely clipped my bumper and both cars were badly damaged though no one was hurt.

At least once a week, I see worse.

Much worse.

In Moby Dick, Herman Melville writes, “but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life.”

Melville is commenting in his passage that describes the rope known as a ‘whale line’ the work of the men in a small boat going after whales.

He writes, ” when the line is darting out, to be seated then in the boat, is like being seated in the midst of the manifold whizzings of a steam-engine in full play, when every flying beam, and shaft, and wheel, is grazing you.”

But whaling and whale ropes?

I was driving a car, something un-imagined by Melville.

Maybe Melville couldn’t imagine a car but he knew life and he writes,

All men live enveloped in whale-lines.”

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