We've all read those famous words in the history books, those ringing phrases which echo down the corridors of time, those brave utterances which will never be forgotten: Patrick Henry's, "Give me liberty or give me death!" Nathan Hale's, "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country." FDR's, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
There are, however, less known phrases which may never make it into the history books, but perhaps ought to make it into print somewhere. I've heard a couple of them in my lifetime. Maybe this is the time to put one of them on record.
One day while cruising Highway 60 in the Valley, doing about 50 or so, as I slowed down and prepared to exit, I watched in amazement as a small, red two-door sedan which had just zoomed by me at well over 70 morphed into one of the most amazing sights that have ever met my eyes: A vehicle, still doing 70, but spinning around, and around, and around.
It looked like that two-door was on ice, but it wasn't; it was on solid concrete.
Then, in less time than it takes to say it, things altered dramatically. I changed from a spectator to a participant. Instead of continuing its spinning, the dang two-door suddenly reversed and came straight at me in my poor little Mazda pickup -- not going backwards! And though it had reversed its direction, it was still going just as fast. At me!
Well, I did everything I could to avoid that two-door, but it seemed hellbent on nailing me. Every move I made, it matched. I slowed, it slowed. I sped up, it sped up. I went left, it went left. I went right, it went right. There was no escape.
It struck me -- still going backward -- just aft of my left front tire, ripping through my fender and taking off my front doorpost and driver-side door.
My pickup was slammed sideways into the metal guard rail and we slid along it together for 150 feet before we finally came to a halt, at which point the two vehicles separated.
My driver's side door was embedded two feet into the trunk of the two-door, which ended up behind me, facing forward again.
I was left sitting in the fresh air and sunshine, still belted into my seat. Actually, it was kind of handy; I just undid my seat belt and stepped right out onto the paved shoulder. No need to even fool with a door handle.
The famous words? Well, I saw two people sitting bolt upright in the two-door, as I walked over to it. I also saw that it had lost the outer tread on its right rear tire, no doubt a recap that had failed.
As I reached the two-door, I leaned over and looked in through the open passenger side window.
The driver, a female, had her hands clamped onto the steering wheel so tightly I swear I could see plastic oozing out between her fingers.
The male passenger was shaking like a leaf. His eyes were the size of sewer covers and his face was absolutely drained of blood.
"You okay?" I asked them.
I'll never forget the passenger's answer, spoken through vocal cords as tight as piano wires: "She hit the (bleep)ing brakes!"
I might add that he said it with a certain air of sincerity.