My Turn: Keep your eyes on the road

For the Monitor
Published: 4/28/2021 9:30:05 AM

To merge with 93 from Second Street in Manchester, one must navigate a winding, ascending exit.

The road curves and climbs, and even after all these years, I must pay particular attention (if I’m homeward bound) to ensure I don’t inadvertently commit to the lane headed to Boston rather than Concord. But making sure one is in the right lane isn’t the only reason, or even the most important one, to keep one’s eyes trained on the road.

You never know when your headlights will suddenly illuminate a guy in a black hoodie, ambling down the hill in your direction – in your lane. The man shuffled to the embankment as I swerved around him the other night. Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed him slide down the embankment to the wooded area below as I continued my ascent to the interstate.

When my heart resumed a semblance of a normal rhythm, I indulged in a moment’s self-pity. “It would have been just my luck to hit the guy,” I sputtered to my steering wheel. “Who walks the wrong way on this road at 9 o’clock at night?” Someone taking a shortcut home, it occurred to me as I sped north to my bed.

The treed spaces interspersed amongst the traffic of New Hampshire’s small cities play the same role as the tunnels running beneath the streets of Las Vegas. They provide a refuge, however inhospitable, for the people who, for whatever reason, have fallen out of the traffic.

Usually, the traffic maintains a certain separation from the tunnels and the trees. Tourists roam the Las Vegas strip awash in neon glow, oblivious to the world carrying on in comparative darkness beneath their feet. New Hampshire folks hurtle past our woods in their metal boxes, not giving a moment’s thought to what lies within the woods that they pass.

But sometimes the two worlds collide, usually at night. Fortunately, my recent collision wasn’t physical, though it certainly came close. I made it home safe. Hopefully, the other fellow did too.

If nothing else, the experience reminded me to keep my eyes on the road I’m traveling, a rule of which it helps to be reminded of from time to time. We may harbor an illusion that the traffic world is separate from the worlds of the trees or the tunnels, but it’s only an illusion. We all belong to one world and we have to look out for one another.

And looking out for one another is of course easier to do when some of us don’t embark on wrong-way-on-the-highway nocturnal walks while decked out in dark clothing. But if you encounter such an unfortunate soul, I hope your eyes aren’t fixed on your phone.

(Benjamin T. King, a partner at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C, lives in Concord.)

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