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Make Those Last Words Count

Story ID:5444
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Caldwell Idaho USA
Year:2009
Person:Me
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Traffic backed up a mile on the I-84 heading east into Boise, Idaho. It was a
normal Wednesday morning, as traffic merged from an adjoining highway. I travel the
same highway every day and know to stay in the right hand lane up to the merge and
then move to the left lane. A few years of New Jersey traffic taught me to read the lanes
for the fastest commute.

I approached the merge, saw a break in the left lane, and moved in front of a
dump truck. We passed the merge and gained speed. Orange cones on my left, marked
the area where a third lane was being built. The work has been going on for a year. It was
now paved but not open for commuters. Our speed got up to 45 miles-per-hour. I glanced
at the clock. I would be to work on time.

Brake lights flashed. The car ahead grew larger. I jammed on my brakes and
came to a stop a few feet from his rear bumper. Movement in my mirror drew caught my
attention. In my mirror saw the dump truck barreling in on me. I moved to the right as far
as I could without hitting the cars in that lane and braced for the crash.

In seconds, it was over. The truck served to the left, destroyed several orange
cones, and came to a stop beside me. A cloud of blue tire smoke drifted over my car.
I gagged from the smell and the fear of knowing the truck could have been on top of me.
If not for the truck driver’s quick reaction to serve into the construction area, I would
have been seriously hurt or killed.

The next night, I left work and headed home. I reached the highway, merged into
traffic and immediately moved to the far left of three lanes . It moves faster, once traffic
slows for a merge to two lanes a few miles ahead.

I heard a siren, looked in my mirror, and saw a police car coming up on my left in
the breakdown lane. He flew by me and disappeared into the distance. Soon, a second
police car blew by so fast, the wind caused my car to rock.

A half mile ahead, traffic came to stop. I sat under an overpass and waited. In my
mirror, I saw a third police car racing up the breakdown lane on the left. Two my right, a
fourth police cruiser came down an on ramp and cut diagonally across the three lanes of
stopped traffic. His siren screamed a warning to let him through. Two cars ahead of me,
he reached the left lane. An opening appeared in front of him. He shot out into the
breakdown lane just as the policeman coming up the left passed. The police car cutting
through traffic smashed into the rear passenger side of the other cruiser. Parts of the two
cars flew through the air. The car that came up the left fishtailed several times, gained
control and took off in pursuit of the first two cruisers. The policeman who hit him sped
off in the same direction.

My hands shook as traffic inched forward. A quarter mile up the highway, the
police cruisers were stopped in the breakdown lanes, lights flashing. The one that was hit,
had the rear passenger door and fender crushed in and a flat tire. Across the cement
divide police had all four lanes in the other direction stopped and five policemen held a
man down in the middle of the highway. Another policeman held the leash of an attack
dog. I heard the man screaming obscenities as I passed.

The radio said it was the end of a high-speed chase. The police finally got him
over to the side with the help of a spike belt, but he wouldn’t get out of his car, and when
he did, he had to be tasered to be brought under control.

We passed the action, traffic sped up, and my hands slowly stopped shaking.
The two days of close calls on the highway reminded me why Ginny and I make sure
we always say hug, kiss, and say “I love you!” whenever we part. We never know when
it will be the last time.

Never miss a moment to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Life is
fragile. It can end at any moment. Make those last words count.

Michael T. Smith