Special to The Windham Eagle
I woke up in a great frame of mind last Thursday. Earth Day reminds us of the importance of maintaining a habitable home planet, a state of affairs not enough people seem to acknowledge or appreciate these days.
My own April 22 this year was unusually memorable, but not because I spent it composting, picking up roadside trash, or adopting some new renewable resource.
I had arranged to attend to some chores during the school vacation week. One was getting what remains of my hair trimmed.
I got my first Maine haircut a little over 25 years ago. I had just relocated to Saco from Raleigh, North Carolina, and there was a barber shop within walking distance from where I was living. The owner/proprietor was welcoming and friendly. Even more importantly, he was proficient at cutting hair. He’s retired now, but his daughter, who’s clearly inherited all of his talents, still runs the place.
Nothing earns customer loyalty more quickly than the combination of competence, amiability and kindness. That’s why even though I now live some distance away, I continue to patronize that very same place to get what’s left of my once-lush locks snipped, which explains why I was headed south on I-295 last Thursday morning at around 9:30 a.m.
What it doesn’t explain is why, shortly after passing the second Congress Street exit, I saw a white car coming directly at me. Since I was traveling in the left lane at a rate of around 55 mph at the time, this was cause for concern.
I’d read about wrong-way drivers in the past, usually after some tragic fatality that occurred in the wee hours of a weekend morning. But this too rapidly unfolding situation was occurring on a sunny day. And more significantly, I was directly involved.
There wasn’t enough time to panic. With no left shoulder available at the portion of the highway I was on, I jerked the wheel to the right, veering into the only available space. Thankfully, there was no one already occupying it. The cars in that lane, as well as the ones that had been behind me, all made the split-second adjustments necessary to avoid a potentially lethal high-speed collision.
With no time to hit the horn, swear or be frightened, I had just reacted. Thankfully the wrong-way driver didn’t zig or zag; he just kept speeding north, straight as a string, in the southbound passing (or for him, the right) lane. When I last glimpsed his car in my rearview mirror he was obliviously plowing ahead through on-rushing traffic. A few horns sounded, but I don’t remember hearing any squealing brakes.
I expected to see a grim aftermath of some awful head-on collision on my return trip, but miraculously there were no signs of any accidents. Later, a friend I had told of the surreal incident sent me a news story about a drunk driver who had somehow gone nearly five miles traveling northbound in the southbound lane of I-295 before finally getting pulled over.
I suspect I’m not the only motorist who’s still processing narrowly missing a life-altering collision with a wrong-way motorist whose BAC (blood alcohol content) was allegedly more than three times the legal limit. I hope that irresponsible driver gets the help he needs. He’s exceptionally fortunate he’s merely facing charges of driving to endanger and OUI, but not, thankfully, manslaughter or vehicular homicide.
But I’m even luckier than he is. His reckless actions reminded me to fully embrace getting up each morning and also that as long as I continue to exist, every day is Earth Day. <