It is amazing (and a little frightening) to think how connected everything is. Connected in ways virtually invisible until something happens and one of these connections is broken off. All of the sudden, you find yourself watching the change ripple away in increasingly larger circles beyond your control.
One morning earlier this month, I slept out. The week before had been busy with all sorts of activities and not nearly enough time for sleep.
I woke up ten minutes before I had to be in the station boarding a train to work. Too late to even make it on my own, but this was one of the mornings when I had to take my daughter along too (some days we do this commuting dance where I take her to work with me and hand her over to my husband finishing his shift who then takes her to the minder). So, I asked my husband if he could come back and give me a lift. I would be in work less late than taking the next train and I would not need to wake my little one for another half an hour. Sounded like a good deal. It turned out to be quite the opposite.
It was an especially wet October morning. As we hit the road, I got on the phone to inform my workplace I’d be a little late, then – to let our childminder know. As soon as I finished the latter call, we realised it was ten past eight – only about 10 minutes earlier than our daughter usually arrives at the minder’s door. We had just passed the turn towards her house. After a short hesitation, decision was made to take me to work first and Henry would then drop off the little one on his way home.
On the motorway, traffic was moving slower than usual, slowing down to a halt at places and then picking up again. The three of us in the car were chatting as usual, touching base over the last hours of our lives that we’d been apart. I turned to check on my daughter in the rear of the car. When returning my gaze back to the road, I saw the car right in front of us had stopped. Meanwhile, as if in slow motion, we kept floating gently along the wet road until… Boom. Apparently, my husband had, for a split second, turned back to check on our daughter as well.
The woman in the small silver car in front of us normally drives to the train station and then takes a train for the rest of her commute to work. She does not usually drive on that motorway. She was there that morning only because she had an appointment later in the afternoon for an NCT (compulsory periodical technical test of a car).
Neither of us was supposed to be there. And yet, there we were, standing on the edge of the motorway on a rainy October morning, unexpectedly stopped and thrown off the tracks of how we thought the day was going to go. There were so many opportunities for this not to happen. Had I not slept out that morning, had I taken the next train instead of calling on Henry, had we turned the car around and gone to the childminder first… All the little and insignificant decisions… Had any of them been made differently, we would have been richer by a good few euros and the driver of the silver car would have arrived at work on time, taken her car to be tested, possibly even passed. And neither her nor us would even know about each other’s existence.
It kept me thinking for the rest of the day – what if… I was not beating myself for making the choices I did. There was no way I could have known what was going to happen. Instead, I could not shake the wonder of how interconnected the little pieces of our days are, how quickly and unexpectedly our life tracks may run into someone else’s. And also – that most of the time we just go on with our lives without even realising how different a course our day could have taken if we only made one tiny choice differently. Had I not slept out that day, I would not have had the slightest idea, that I had just avoided a costly car accident and saved everyone a lot of hassle just by waking up on time. How many more things are on the verge of happening, but never do? Curious, isn’t it?
(P.S. A very premature response to this challenge.)