Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Paddling Like a Duck

"Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath."
-Michael Caine

One must remain unruffled behind the wheel of a car, calm at all times no matter the situation. Quite like the duck, really, that paddles madly underneath the water but appears untroubled on the surface.
Spouse knows this innately and I am glad.
We once were driving near our neighbourhood in Texas, on a patch of highway that was at times slow, at times fast due to the never-ending construction that was in progress.
We might have started from home a little late because Spouse was munching on a sandwich.
Between the start-stop motion of the car, and the haste of other drivers on their way to their own destinations, the drive was precarious.
As we were gliding along- within the limits but consistent with the flow of traffic- we observed that a vehicle had pulled out from a crossing in front of us without the least hint of warning and had reduced its speed significantly so that we were hurtling, it seemed, toward a calamity.
I saw it all slowly as it unfolded. There is, in driving, that awful moment when occupants of a car are convinced beyond all doubt that they will never stop in time, that brakes are not sufficient and the car seems to have a mind of its own. Indeed, forcing the brakes and hoping for the best is all that is available or reasonable.
Spouse braked hard and we tensed ourselves, certain that we would hit the fellow in front of us.
It seemed that there was no other way. We were propelled toward the oversized vehicle with an alarming velocity.
In my fear, I turned and looked at Spouse, still with his eyes on the road and sandwich gripped tightly, and I watched as he inexplicably brought the food to his mouth and took an enormous bite.
Spouse said softly, through crumbs of what I seem to recall being chicken, "we're going to die!"
Still, he kept chewing, he kept the sandwich in his hand as our brakes squealed and our hearts sank.
When we understood, finally, that a dreadful accident had been avoided, and when we noted with a gasp the remaining space between the two vehicles, I calculated that one could not have placed so much as a chicken sandwich between the bumpers- such was the close call we had.
Afterward, when we could breathe again and talk about what happened, I found that Spouse was as astonished as I to discover his appetite had not been affected one whit. He had not known the depth of calm that he possessed.
It is very well indeed to keep calm and keep eating no matter the perils that lie ahead.


polona said...

how intriguing again!
perhaps the fact that spouse kept eating his sandwich prevented the accident happening... but who would know for sure?

Jaime said...

I love this line... could not have placed so much as a chicken sandwich between the bumpers.

My goodness, can you write!

If only you could bottle that kind of calm for the rest of the crazed drivers out on the road. *wink*

Pauline said...

that was extraordinarily well told!

julochka said...

that is such a funny story! how funny that you happened to look up and see him taking the bite! it must be the survival instinct at its very best. :-)

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Polona, again, you might be right :) He had something to concentrate on and it probably kept him calm in its own way. After all, once he hit the brakes there was nothing else he could do.
Jaime, thanks you- you're very kind :) Where I live there's no shortage of crazy drivers. Somebody who acknowledges you if, say, you let them into a traffic lane- they are the exception. Very sad.
Pauline, Thank you kindly.
Julie, I thought he would be looking as scared as I was, but no, he was... eating...
Whatever helps, right? :)

Pappy said...

I think I have probably driven that same highway numerous times. I like spouse's dry wit. It pays to stay as calm as you can when driving to avoid causing road rage, or actually catching it yourself. Pappy

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Texican, I bet they've fixed the road and completed construction now. That was probably three years ago, though I can't imagine how so much time has passed. That was just on the outskirts of Austin.

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