As I was skimming the news the other day, I ran across a truly awful story. A young woman, Victoria Strauss, died with her head trapped between her car and car door, after hitting a parking garage payment kiosk. It looks like she dropped her credit card, leaned out of her car to get it, accidentally accelerated, and got stuck. A security guard found her body the next morning. It’s, as one of my friends said, “some Final Destination level stuff.” Whenever I hear about incidents like this, I’m always interested in the learning points so that deaths and injuries aren’t in vain, and I have just a few for you today.
One is perhaps obvious, but easy to gloss over: vehicles should be turned off or put into Park when body parts are getting in and out of them, even part-way. It can seem like a bit too much effort for a super simple, quick stop but so much can go wrong with a simple slip of a foot. Taking the moments to shift into Park or even stop the engine and engage the emergency/parking brake has an extremely low effort cost for a potentially high payoff. The worst that happens is that you’ve wasted a few seconds, maybe shaved a fraction off your gas mileage. The best? You don’t accidentally run someone – maybe yourself – over. Somewhere in between, you might avoid dinging a bumper or having a near-miss scare. If you make it a habit to shift out of Drive any time you’re stopped when not actively driving somewhere, you probably won’t even notice having done it until the one time your automatic movements are interrupted and you get confused as to why something seems different. Is it possible that Ms. Strauss did have this habit and just didn’t this one time? Absolutely! That’s why her terrible experience should nudge you to double-check your own habit here, and make sure that what you’re doing automatically is what you want to be doing.
The other is that death can come for us at any time. You might have heard the phrase “memento mori” sometime, maybe even here, and it’s a reminder that death is inevitable and not always on the time line you would like. No matter how careful we are, no matter how well-prepared, sometimes fate says that there will be no more tomorrows for you, or no more tomorrows like today. I don’t say this to be depressing or sad, but to highlight that we have a limited time in this life and we don’t know when it will end. The fact that we will die, and that it could be today, is a reason to ensure that we live without regrets. We have to plan for tomorrow as if it will happen, because doing that means we can fight for more tomorrows. We need not be resigned to fate, just realize that sometimes we can’t change it. So just in case tomorrow doesn’t happen like we want it to, then what? Will you be satisfied by the memories and the legacy you leave behind? And did you enjoy your today, and see the beauty in it, like it’s your last opportunity to appreciate the wonder of the world? It could be, and if it is, that’s a lovely moment to carry with you through your end. And if it’s not, how much better is your day today because you did?
Try it this weekend. I promise it will be worth your time.
PS – for clarity, this pic is just for attention, and not Ms. Strauss, not to mention something you probably shouldn’t try while a car can move.