The Risk Of Not Paying Attention

I almost got into a car accident today.

Clarification: I almost caused a car accident today.

Double clarification: I almost listlessly drifted my car into another today.

How? you may be asking.

Great question!

I was leaving the service department at the car dealership (yes, I’d just had it serviced. Makes the story better, doesn’t it?) They parked my car facing the building, and new cars were parallel parked along the curb. So my car faced the side of a new car.

It was also on a slope leading to the building.

shift-868980_1280And my car has a manual transmission. That’s important.

So I get into the car and do my usual fussing – plug the phone into the stereo, throw away those scraps, yada yada yada. I think nothing of anything until I hear a yell and look up, which is when I fully apply the brakes.

My car had been moving and I had no freaking idea. I stopped it inches from the door of one of those new cars.

Scary, huh?

I also have no freaking idea how that happened. I suspect the tech who parked the car didn’t apply the parking brake. He just put it in first, shut off the car, and when on with his day.

No wrongdoing on his part, but I always set the parking brake. Always. And I don’t release it until right before I put the car in gear. I think my brain on autopilot is to blame here – I hadn’t released the parking brake, so why should the car be moving?

What’s odd is I didn’t even sense the car was moving because I wasn’t looking out the window. I was in my own little world, doing my own little thing, nearly causing destruction because I didn’t do something as simple as look up. Thank God no small kids walked in front of me.

So on the way home, as my adrenaline returned to normal levels, I wondered how often we (meaning me) miss things or cause problems because of a simple lack of paying attention. And I remembered something I’d seen in a perception class I took as an undergrad. This video captures the idea. It’s less than two minutes long and it will likely blow your mind, even if you think you know what’s coming.

Now, this was more about missing stuff because our minds are preoccupied, but isn’t that what happened to me in the car? Or to the girl who walked into the fountain while she was texting? Or to that guy who ran his bike into a ditch when a pretty girl walked by?

Our minds should be in one place, but they’re in another. Or they’re in more than one place at a time. I like to brag about multitasking (I’m chatting with someone on fb as I type this post), but chances are good to excellent that I would be more efficient at completing tasks if I paid 100% attention. Can anyone relate?

It’s especially tricky now that everyone has a phone, and those are great when waiting in line or when an awkward silence needs to be broken. Twitter on my phone is the best when I’m in public and need to kill time. But I’m pretty sure a dragon could fly right in front of me, and I would miss it because I was busy retweeting.

Or maybe I could miss something a little less dramatic, like a friend waving at me, or a stranger dropping a bill that I could help them locate.

So I leave this post with two directives: 1. Make a conscious effort to pay attention to surroundings, and 2. Make sure the tech set the damn parking brake.

15 thoughts on “The Risk Of Not Paying Attention

  1. But you must have depressed the clutch pedal or it wouldn’t have moved, right? I’ve seen pictures of you, and you’re not heavy enough to move the car when it’s in gear. 😉


  2. 1. Multitasking is a farce. Tests have shown that it id decreases productivity and each task at hand is diminished.
    2. Pretty girls are SUPPOSED to cause guys to wreck their bikes. I mean, c’mon – pretty girl, you know?
    3. I have been on the other, near-tragic side of such an event.

    I live I Florida so we have lots and LOTS of your grandparents here, driving however the hell they want, causing all sorts of chaos as they make left turns from the far right lane, drive down one-way streets the wrong way, and drive onto THE AIRPORT RUNWAY when they miss a turn. (To this day, nobody’s certain how the blue hair managed that last one.)

    When it rains, god, just stay inside. They’re bad enough in dry weather.

    I did not, however, think you’d be joining their road-endangering ranks so soon, Allison.

    I had the pleasure of driving my daughter to her grandmother’s to spend the day just about four weeks ago. The next day, we realized she’d forgotten some toy or other can’t-live-without-it, 5 year old must-have item. So we drove the three miles to grandma’s house at lunch.

    Me, my wife, and our young daughter. Then, the plan was, go to a movie. The one that has since cause my child to constantly ask if I have emotions in my head. (My standard answer after the 500th time is now Yes – but just Anger.)

    As we left the innocence that is grandma’s house, we traversed the long, straight drive toward the bigger main road. In the distance, I saw a gray sedan start to hug the yellow line as he approached us.

    We got closer and closer, he got more and more into the center line.

    A painted stripe down the middle of the road, I realized, would not stop a two ton vehicle from doing anything.

    His tires crossed into our lane a few feet. Now we were looking at a head on collision.

    So far, I have not alerted the passengers, but I’m doing the math on my options. He’ll wake up and swerve back into his lane at the last terrifying second, avoiding a head-on collision – or not. He’ll NOT wake up, and I’ll have to run off the road into somebody’s front yard. He’ll NOT swerve, in which case I will swerve into HIS lane because we have these terrific ditches dug along the sides of the road to let rain water into, causing a car to almost guaranteed flip over if you drive into it faster than 3 miles per hour. A distant thought was to stop, but he’d just kill us then, so that wasn’t ever really on the table, as wasn’t the Vin Deisel parking brake/reverse swerve 180. (Although I’m sure could have done it.)

    The car gets closer. He is now 99% IN OUR LANE, as in almost completely. I have taken my foot off the gas and I’m getting ready to brake, swerve, and alert my wife and kid, wondering which impact will cause the least amount of damage to a five year old in a car seat.

    He’s STILL COMING. I know, it’s incredible. Even if I completely stopped, he’s now 100% going to hit us. We ARE going to wreck.

    Time to alert the wife.

    “Honey- ”


    Wife pushes imaginary brakes on her side of car, daughter screams from back seat.

    Idiot driver finally looks up from texting or tuning radio or dropped cigarette. (Maybe he heard her screams. Let’s go with that.) HIS EYES GO PIE-PLATE WIDE.

    He swerves, nearly flipping his own car (hey, better him than me) and barely misses us.

    Glares all around as he speeds past, apology on his face, hatred on ours.

    Texting, I think. I was just happy to avoid a big time wreck.

    I could have understood it if he’d have been staring at a pretty girl.

    He’d probably at least have slowed down.


    • I didn’t think I’d join those ranks either. I’m just as surprised as you are.
      Did you honk at the guy?? My husband would be laying in on that thing like he was aggressively kneading bread dough.
      In other news, a few years ago he was rear-ended by a teen guy driving his mom’s mini van. He suspects texting as well.


  3. “I’m chatting with someone on fb as I type this post” … 😀
    I brag about my multi-tasking skills too and yet today, I missed my tube stop… TWICE.
    Thanks for making me laugh with this post, I needed it!


  4. It’s because you didn’t offer him your chips.
    Interesting reflection though… I know that when I’m editing I have to be careful about what I have in the background — for instance certain music will fade to nothingness, but other music will draw my attention away.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hah! I hear you. I’m the worst about doing fifty or so things at once. My best multitasking doof involves trying to clean in a hurry while talking to my boyfriend and texting my mother…I wound up simultaneously calling my boyfriend ‘mom’ and spraying an unglassed canvas with windex. D’oh.

    Liked by 2 people

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