The Schrodinger Moments in Your Life

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My brother-in-law is what you’d call “salt of the Earth.” He grew up on a farm. He tinkered with engines as a kid. Naturally, he became an automotive mechanic, then an industrial mechanic (he’s even repaired ship’s engines). Eventually he and my sister bought their own land in the country and he became a mechanic/driver for a rural construction company.

On Saturday his pick-up truck was hit by a drunk driver…

…and we get to our Schrödinger moment…

He’s OK. So is his passenger. They have some minor injuries, mostly, I think, from their seatbelts interrupting their bodies’ sudden change in velocity.

In a narrative that we don’t hear as often, the only person seriously injured was the drunk driver. Her injuries were serious enough to rate an air ambulance evacuation.

I don’t know what my brother-in-law and his friend may have gone through in being the first people to see and help the injured. I’ve heard horror stories from friends who were the first on the scene at gruesome accidents. I can only imagine…

I have a vivid imagination.

I lived in South Africa for three years. Once, I was driving from Johannesburg to Rustenburg along a very narrow, notorious country road. There are a series of small creeks that pass under the road, and each little bridge gives the road a bump that can easily send a careless car airborne.

Young invincible men liked to drag race on this road, but it was early Sunday morning and I had the road mostly to myself. At one of the creeks, there was a car in the ditch, upside down. Ethically, I had to stop. It was possible that I was the first person to find this car.

I remember the dread at what I might find. What if the car cabin had been crushed? What if someone was still alive in there?

It was an old model Mercedes Benz, faded gold in colour. The car was upside down, straddling the creek, engine on one side, back trunk (‘the boot’) on the other. The whole passenger compartment was suspended about a metre above the ground, undamaged.

Walking around the boot, I found the driver’s side door open, the seatbelt and a jacket hanging out. I didn’t get too close, just enough to ensure no one was trapped inside. There were no people, no signs of blood. Someone had gotten very lucky.

I got back into my car and continued. A few kilometres down the road, at another creek, there’s a car stopping. Someone got out, looked over the bridge, shook his head, got back in. When I pulled up alongside, I asked them if they’re looking for a car in a ditch. They said yes, I pointed up the road.

They drove off laughing.

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We all have them, Schrödinger Moments, when for a millisecond (or longer) two possibilities are each equally real, then one becomes solid and the other becomes a "there but for the grace of God..."