The mini van in front of us threw on its brakes and came to a dead stop directly in front of us in the middle of a darkened interstate highway on Thanksgiving night. No emergency blinkers flashed an alarm. Before my husband and I could register what was happening, the front passenger-side door of the van swung open, and it looked as though someone was about to get out, though nobody emerged. At one point, we made out what appeared to be a woman’s purse being hurled from the vehicle into the roadway.
Cars whizzed by on either side of us: We were hopelessly – and treacherously – caught behind the erratic driver whose van blocked our lane. My husband frantically blew the horn of my compact car. The van didn’t budge. Our panic mounted as we realized the driver, for whatever reason, was not going to move, and there was no opening in traffic for us to safely change lanes.
We both knew we were in a precarious position and had to act fast. Our fear was that another driver was going to fail to see that we were stopped inexplicably and would hit us from the rear traveling at a high rate of speed. I’ll remember for a long time the horror I felt as I looked over my shoulder from the passenger seat and saw a tractor-trailer approaching from behind. In my mind’s eye, I replay again and again it moving over.
After what seemed an eternity – but likely wasn’t very long – we were able to extricate ourselves. By about the same moment we were at last able to navigate to another lane, the van’s driver had finally decided to move on also. Shaken by the experience, we pulled into the closed truck weigh station just ahead and remained there briefly. I could still smell somebody’s brakes, or maybe it was the odor of tire rubber, as though it was trapped in my nose. It was certainly etched in my memory.
I don’t know what would cause a person to operate a motor vehicle so recklessly, with disregard for their own life, that of their passenger and the lives of others around them. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced it may have been a domestic violence situation. The problem affects more than the couple or family at its center; it can spill over and impact others in the community in a very tangible way.
Hopefully, somewhere between the sweet potato pie and posing for pictures with extended family you found time this holiday to ponder the things in your life for which you are thankful. We are glad this year simply to have made it home from our Thanksgiving celebration.
Hope Yancey is a counselor and freelance writer living in Charlotte, North Carolina