I used up a life on Saturday night.
At this point, I honestly don't know how many I have left, I probably should've started keeping track much earlier in my youth.
It was 7pm and I was driving south on the last remaining fragment of the Central Freeway, leaving San Francisco. The freeway splits down the middle where the Central Freeway ends, 2 lanes curving left towards the Bay Bridge, 2 lanes veering right to become 101 South, the middle lane parts in two. Traffic was light, everybody was at home watching the World Series. I was in the middle lane and I had 3 cars driving in front of me at a tepid speed. There was an SUV on my left that I was slowly passing. I saw that his lane was clear ahead of him, so I accelerated to slide into the gap ahead of him. I glanced over my left shoulder quickly to confirm that I was completely ahead of him and when I glanced back forward, the 3 cars in front of me were at a complete stop. Impact was imminent.
I didn't think. I didn't make a decision. It all happened in less than a heartbeat. It was the flick of a wrist: snap left, snap right. I skimmed the car in front of me's bumper by what looked like inches... and I somehow missed plowing into 3 parked cars at 70+ mph. I didn't slow, never even tapped the brakes, as I continued into the hard left banked turn that leads to the Bay Bridge. I maintained my speed and breathed as I contemplated what the hell had just happened. What the hell had happened?
I had driven through a lot of water on the road, had felt tires slip for a fraction of a moment, as I blew passed the stopped cars. It had indeed been raining in SF that day but very lightly, not enough to leave standing water on the freeway. 3 cars dead stop in front of me. Stopped faster than brakes alone would've allowed. Water on the road at the exact point the lanes split. Oh shit. The water barrels. The lead car ahead of me had crashed into the water barrels at the juncture of the split.
I remember a few years back when I had a brief romance with Karate and my sensei had drilled home that the point of training and repetition was so that if a situation ever occurred, you wouldn't have to think about what to do to defend yourself, you would just react. He had a couple of great stories to prove his point.
And I guess that's what happened on Saturday night, all those years of street driving, autocross, track time, even Gran Turismo. I didn't think. I just reacted. I instantly summed up all my options, mapped out everything around me and took the only advisable action.
And it probably saved my life. If not my life, it definitely saved me and whomever was in those three cars a lot of pain and suffering.
Not much shakes me up. Especially driving. But that shook me up. I drove to work at a much slower pace than what's normal for me today.
I wonder how many lives I have left. How many quarters are left lined up on the glass of this machine?