Another One for the Road

I’m just packing up the final bits of my computer gear as I speak, but I just had to write this one last post.

Where I (currently) live, in Newfoundland, Canada, people have a lot to be thankful for. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, with seemingly endless tracts of breathtaking rugged seascapes, adorned with icebergs and spinning seabirds and pods of whales, striking a connection with elemental nature that’s almost unparalled. There’s a longstanding cultural heritage ripe with music, art and storytelling, and a down-to-earth mentality that cherishes family, neighbours and even visitors. Here in Carbonear, the weather is warm (but not too warm) and the area is lush and verdant with giant beautiful maple trees nearly a century old. And while there’s a high unemployment rate, the people throughout the province are among the friendliest in the world, often inviting complete strangers into their homes to share a story and a cup of tea.

But there are also idiots. Yes, we have those too.

Last night, towards midnight, I was finishing up packing for the night when I heard a loud bang. I didn’t think too much of it, since the Canada Day fireworks had been sounding sporatically for the past couple of hours. But soon I heard the sirens and suspected there was a problem nearby. A half-hour later, I let the dog out and noticed police lights spinning on a house across the street. I shuffled into my sandals and went out to see what was happening.

There were three police cars, an ambulance driving away, and a crowd milling around a vehicle. A closer look revealed an older mid-sized car whose front end was completely demolished, a large nearby maple whose trunk bark was completely ripped off, and a young girl crying in the back seat of a police car.

It turns out that this girl, whose blood alcohol was several times the limit, and who had been driving without insurance or even a license, had hit our neighbour and crashed into a tree. She then tried to make a getaway, but the car didn’t make it more than a few feet. The neighbour was flung onto a nearby lawn and was suffering from two mangled legs, a badly damaged eye, and no doubt a series of other injuries. He was rushed to the Health Sciences Centre in the capitol of St. John’s. I knew him briefly from a school where I taught — he had just retired from teaching at the age of 52, and had bought a canoe for his holidays. She wound up with a nose bleed.

As I walked back to the house, I noticed the tire tracks. She had driven through a puddle on the opposite (left) side of the road, and swerved to the right, where she hit the neighbour and then the tree. There didn’t seem to be any skid marks.

I certainly feel for the neighbour, and I’m trying to feel for the girl. She’s young, and at that age we’re all a little stupid and obnoxious. (She’s the same one we often hear roaming drunkenly with a pair of teenage boys in the middle of the night, whooping and screaming and swearing as she passes by the house.) But I can’t help thinking she needed this to happen. It’s a lesson to be learned, and it’s rather ironic that a dedicated school teacher was nearly killed in the process.

Please, folks, if you’re going to drink for the holidays, remember to do the right thing and set a designated driver. It’s one thing to play games with your own life; it’s quite another to jeopoardise someone else’s.

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