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.
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.
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.
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.