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Friday, June 1

Ruined

Another bit of fictional nonsense - how bad things can happen when you least expect/deserve it.

If you’d asked him whether it was legal to use his phone while driving, he would have told you not to be so stupid. If you’d asked him whether he was a careful driver, he would have bristled, puffed up his chest, and explained why the speed limit was a limit, not a target, and how many times he had been provoked to despair over the foolishness of other road users. He remembered his grandfather, who taught him to drive all those years ago, telling him that the car was, first and foremost, a lethal machine that needed to be tamed. Accidents, however, do happen.

With hindsight, he could see how easily everything might have been averted. He shouldn’t have had the extra cup of coffee before leaving the office; his pulse was already racing from the dressing down he’d just been given, and he’d already had more than his usual quota of caffeine for the day. Thursdays were always tough, but this one came with extra pressure. He was due to meet his ex-wife at the theatre to “celebrate” their anniversary. She was as demanding in divorce as in marriage and would not appreciate being left waiting at the theatre entrance, especially since he had the tickets. He knew that he was at his best if he had a quick comfort break before leaving the office, and maybe a pre-drive wander around the car to do his safety checks. Tyres? – they were always there, hub-caps? – who needs alloys?, oil? – probably. It was his little ritual. His car was his friend and partner now. It never nagged him and it never demanded anything except a little petrol and a visit to the garage now and then. How he wished he’d taken the 5 minutes he usually spent getting into his driving mood after the stresses of a difficult day. He didn’t like driving angry.

He hit the roads hard. He hit the child hard. He knew it was his fault, he should not have taken that phone call from the ex, demanding to know whether he was going to be late again. It took all his concentration not to shout at her, and that split second was all it took to change his life forever, along with the lives of two decent parents and a host of other people who loved the boy on the zebra crossing.

Stress can give you tunnel vision. You don’t have the time to step back, assess and face up to what’s in front of you. The fight or flight instinct takes over. At the time, all he could think of was not getting into trouble. He had to get to the theatre on time, or face an angry ex. He couldn’t let a simple mistake, that was not even his fault, escalate into more grief. How could he have messed up? He was the best driver he knew.

His family only discovered what he’d done when his arrest was printed in the local papers. If his life had a rear-view mirror, he didn’t want to look in it at the moment.

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