Monday, March 25, 2013

A Flock of Vultures

Just when I thought I was one of the luckiest people in the world, I ran into a flock of vultures. Let me explain. 

My wife and I took a little road trip recently. We were sickling down the highway at the approximate legal rate of speed (about 110 miles per hour), when up ahead I saw brake lights. I got a little closer and I realized what caused the car in front of me to slow down. A flock of 20 or so vultures were enjoying a leisurely breakfast of roadkill carnage souffle in the middle of the road. I slowed down to a more reasonable speed (about 107 miles per hour) to give the birds a chance to get out of the way, about 19 or so did. 

Unfortunately, one of them, I'll call Fred, did not get out of the way fast enough. Fred went from enjoying a leisurely breakfast to becoming … how can I put this … lunch. I assisted Fred in completing the circle of life. 
I really do hate hitting animals in the road. Through the years growing up in the country, it was very rare to NOT hit an animal, especially at night. I've hit possums, armadillos, birds, raccoons, squirrels and the occasional Morphis. 

I'm kidding, I never hit a squirrel. 

Each time, I hate it. I guess I just a ol' softie when it comes to killing things. I don't hunt and I rarely even fish. I will eat a giant steak and fried chicken is never safe around me, but I can't imagine having to actually kill my next meal. That's probably totally hypocritical of me, but that's what I do. 

My driver's education teacher, Mr. Moneypenny, always taught us to not slam on the brakes or swerve to miss an animal in the roadway. He said more bad things happen when trying to miss hitting an animal. In that regard, I have most of the time obeyed him. But will always slow down to try and avoid hitting an animal if I can do it safely. 

Fred was not so lucky. 

In Fred's defense, he tried like a champion to get out of the way. He was just about to take off from the breakfast table, when he slammed into the left side of my car's front grill. He busted the grill, broke the fan guard and ripped off the little lever thingy that opens the hood. All in all, it will probably cost several hundred dollars to fix the damage left in Fred's wake. I guess I'll pay it though. It will be my penance for squelching the life of another sentinet being. It will also keep my car from looking like a one-eyed death machine rolling down the road. 

The whole incident really shook me up for a while. First, like I said, I hate taking animals out like that. And second, I didn't even want to think about the damage to my car. I started playing out all of the "What Ifs?" in my head. What if I would have slowed down to a crawl? What if I would have honked the horn? What if I would have left 20 minutes earlier or 20 minutes later? All of those What Ifs? really don't make any sense. It already happened and there was nothing I could do about it after the fact. It's better to learn from the past, forget it and move on. The Buddhists call it being present or mindfulness. 

Most of us are tortured by things from the past or worries about the future. But all we have is right now, in the present. I had to realize that and move on. That little Fred incident could have ruined my trip, even though I probably ruined Fred's day. But there really was nothing else to do. 
Later that same day, we were traveling on the road when we ran upon a line of cars just stopped in the road. Up ahead there was some accident on a small two-lane road, so traffic was backed up and nobody was going anywhere. We were in a hurry to start drinking … er … I mean to get to our final destination, but we couldn't move. For two hours, we moved about 500 yards. That's it. 

People were turning around and going the opposite direction and the others just stood around and tried to make do. What else could we do? 

My wife and I got out of the car and started making friends with the people around us. We petted some dogs, speculated on what the accident was, talked about where were from and what we should be doing instead of being stuck in traffic. While many were stressed because of the hold-up, we just decided to make the best of it. We made a little dinner right there on the road, went to a little store near us and bought a giant honey bun with that white icing and enjoyed the beautiful evening. We didn't spend it quite how we wanted to, but we were together and living in the moment. We were present. In the end, it didn't seem like we were stuck for two hours. 

I think the message of this column is to enjoy life right now. And try to avoid flocks of  vultures. 

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