Ah, the long weekend in May. In my town, you know it’s the long weekend by the bad weather, the camper-filled roads, and the bad car accidents. Whether it’s due to an increased volume of cars on the road or because more people get drunk and decide to drive on a long weekend, I’m not sure, but there is always at least one.
My mom’s birthday always falls around this weekend and to celebrate, she and I headed up to the big city to attend a concert. The drive was uneventful. We enjoyed the blooming trees, which had come early this year, and talked about how the area was in need of a good rainfall. It’s a drive we’ve made a thousand times before, both separately and together.
At the edge of town, we saw a guy on a bicycle sitting at the side of the road smoking a cigarette. We wouldn’t have ever noticed him had he not been smoking. It was a strange juxtaposition and we laughed, commenting that one healthy action doesn’t mean a healthy lifestyle. We continued on our way, thinking little of it.
The evening was fun and we enjoyed the company and the music. It was a later night than I had experienced in quite some time. I drove home in the heavy rain that we had been hoping for earlier. We followed the highway around the city as raindrops thundered on the rooftop, our heated seats turned on for the first time since spring had come. We snacked on Doritos and I left orange streaks of crumbs down my pant legs so I wouldn’t get Mom’s steering wheel dirty. It was the first time that I can remember seeing her eat Doritos.
When we approached the exit that would take us to the highway home, it was covered in orange flashing lights and red traffic cones. Closed flashed over and over again. Red and blue blinking lights brightened the dark highway in the distance. We would have to take a detour to get home. We shook our heads, closed roads usually meant fatalities. The first day of the long weekend had claimed its first victim. So sad, we said.
The next day, I was browsing Twitter and saw this:
A mere seven minutes after we drove on that road, a drunk driver coming the opposite direction hit a cyclist and killed him. I hope that it wasn’t the cyclist we saw, but seeing the photographs and reading the description of the victim, I’m convinced it was. What a strange feeling to know that you were one of the last people to see someone alive before they were killed. How surreal that we most certainly would have driven passed the vehicle that was to hit this man. We had seen this person in a passing way, but we noticed him.
I wonder what he was thinking about as he stood in the cool May air, smoking his last cigarette. Was he dreading the bike ride home? Did he look up at the clouded sky and wonder if he’d get rained on? Did he make eye contact with the intoxicated driver a moment before his life ended or did he die before he knew what was happening?
I’m heartbroken for this man’s family. I’m angry that the driver made a poor decision that someone else had to pay for with his life. Why does it seem like drunk drivers come away from the accidents they cause with little to no injuries? I know it’s wrong to wish that on someone, but it sure feels like the universe gave them a pass.
The May long weekend is only half over. Four lives have been lost so far in accidents like this. I don’t want there to be any more, but I’m not very optimistic. So, friends, when you go on the roads, be careful. And if you have had a couple of drinks, I beg you to find a way home that keeps you from driving. Your life, and the lives of those around you, are too precious to lose to something so senseless.