Man as Deer
Some moments and people we never forget
I remember the airbag engaging immediately.
It pushed so hard against me I understood at that moment why auto manufacturers warned that putting small children upfront in a vehicle was dangerous.
I was pinned against the seat of the rental car I was driving. The vehicle drifted towards the shoulder of Interstate 80 on the Ohio Turnpike and I guided it off the road from behind the airbag.
I had hit a deer.
One minute I was listening to the radio, next minute, I saw a deer jump over the dividing wall of the highway and run in front of the SUV I was driving. I knew the chances of missing the deer were tiny. Tiny like less than nothing.
If I slammed on the brakes, the truck would flip over. If I swerved, the truck might flip over. My only chance was to slow down and try to drift to the right and perhaps the deer would gallop out of my path. But it didn’t work.
It is like we locked eyes. That cliche — deer in headlights — was not a cliche at all. I literally could feel the deer’s eye moving closer and closer to the front of my vehicle even as I tried to drift away from its path. It was no use. It was like the car was magnetic and the deer was made of steel. The deer was thinking it was faster than the vehicle. I so wished the deer was that fast.
But it wasn’t. And this was flesh and bones before me. A living breathing animal that likely had to figure out how to navigate the world that had been built around its world every day in some kind of way. Today, fate had brought us both to this American crossroad.
Cars barreling down this road at 80 plus miles per hour were part of this deer’s life every day I was thinking. Semis with twelve wheels pounding the hot road. Bad drivers and good drivers. None of it was good for a deer. And this deer didn’t look young either. It looked to be in the prime of life, neither old nor young. Just lost perhaps. Gambling without even thinking.
It was late at night. Dark. Not even many cars on the road. It was one of my favorite times to drive. Usually, I liked listening to the radio. Talk shows on public radio. When you get to this part of Ohio where I was, the public radio was often…