O P I N I O N
Though it may feel like it, time does not actually slow down when you’re in danger. What happens is your memory, after you’re safe, just gets better.
For example, on the day after Christmas, as my car crash was happening, I clearly remember wondering how firmly utility poles are fastened into the ground. I wondered if my Rav 4 would split the pole in half when I hit it, or I’d just wrap around it like a pretzel. I remember wondering if the airbags would go off and what that was going to feel like. I recall feeling relief that I was alone in the car.
None of those thoughts happened in the real time of the three seconds it took me to swerve to avoid the other driver that blew a stop sign and slam on my brakes to try to avoid hitting that pole. But in retrospect, I remember that it did.
“Daddy, I love this car,” my daughter said a couple days after the accident as we piled into the shiny, black rental, a brand-new Hyundai Elantra. “This is like a secret agent car. You should buy it.”
She’s been on my mind, of course, as she always is – but more so during our second holiday season/birthday during Covid times for her. Nearly a third of her life, now, has been spent in the pandemic and if I think too much about that I’ll certainly lose my mind. So, in a way, having a bright and brilliant NEW THING TO WORRY ABOUT has come as something of a relief.
And while we wait for the insurance settlement and begin the search for a new set of wheels, having a snazzy sedan with Blue Tooth that can pick up YouTube on my phone has been, well, not nice exactly, but certainly acceptable.
If new years are about new beginnings, it can only go up from here, right?
Then, one day into her new year at school, we got a note saying that she (or her class, it was all a little vague) had been exposed to Covid. The letter was filled with fuzzy language about not having to quarantine if there were no symptoms and a 3-5 day waiting period for testing. Legal gobbledygook as my father would have said.
We were on our own, it seemed. None of us were experiencing any symptoms of anything, other than irritation and lack of sleep (welcome to 2022) but since my wife is to household supplies like Radar is to the M.A.S.H. stockroom, we decided to break out our Covid home test kits and give them a whirl.
This was one more long moment of uncertainty – more time feeling like it was slowing down as we sat in our warm kitchen watching three thin strips in nose gunk solution either turn blue or turn pink. Not a crisis, precisely, not a car bearing down on a utility pole, but still.
It’s worth mentioning the experiment researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston used to measure what they called the Crisis Time Warp. They took volunteers up a 150-foot building and pushed them off. No wires. No parachute. Just a special net to help break their fall.
And even though all those falls only lasted about three seconds, all the volunteers reported after that they estimated they had been falling for eight to ten seconds. Tricky brain, it makes you remember. Vividly.
So, after 15 minutes that felt like 15 hours (or should I say, I remember as taking 15 hours) we removed our test strips, one by one. Blue. Blue. Blue.
We’ll test again, to be sure. And keep an eye on each other with renewed vigilance. But in this world – today – even without a car, I suppose testing negative isn’t a bad way to start the year.
Happy New Year! We’re negative!
I want to proclaim that 2022 will be a year of big wins, of projects completed and big ships steered triumphantly into port. But I better not.
There’s a lot of utility poles and tall buildings out there, and tiny test strips with blue or pink lines. We’ll manage it together, all of us, slowly. Maybe even deliberately. And if we’re lucky, and be conscious of each day, maybe we don’t need a crisis to remember. Let’s try to slow down time ourselves. It’s worth a shot.