A memory came to me today. In a couple years, I’ll be able to accurately describe it as “decades” old.
It starts off like this: On a long and lonesome highway, East of Omaha…
Technically that’s all true. Also technically, that’s Bob Seger. Anyway, I was with a friend in the back of his parents’ truck on our way back from a craft show. We heard an extremely loud impact, which was followed by the truck pulling to the side of the road. We naturally exited out of curiosity. If Hollywood has taught me anything, it’s that it’s far more interesting to inspect the strange, loud noises. Having been in the back of the truck which had a cap on it, we didn’t see a thing prior to observing the large dent in the passenger side door. I’m sure my friend’s mother, having been somewhere about 6 inches from said door at the time, had a much better look at the deer that decided to ram the vehicle at full speed.
Living in a rural area where I’ve personally seen herds of deer that number in the hundreds, deer accidents are all part of the game. By many measures, the memory above is wholly unremarkable ’round these parts. Hell, there’s collision shops that advertise their specialty in deer hits.
What brought this seemingly nondescript memory to the surface was an event that happened to a coworker this morning. In many respects, the same story as mine. As she was driving to work having a completely typical morning…a deer rammed her vehicle.
If I were betting, I’d place money that MOST of the time, the vehicle hits the deer. Deer panics. Tries to cross before the weird monster with glowing eyes can get to it. Deer lacks complete understanding of velocity and other physics related matters. Driver is trying to remember what their insurance deductible is. Buuuuuut, these aren’t the only two stories I know of where the deer struck the vehicle. My wife had it happen to her in a work vehicle (she might not have wondered about the deductible in this instance). I’ve actually heard this story a lot of times.
“The deer ran into me.”
As I left work I pondered this. Are deer really THAT poor at judging physics? Do they really think the best way to avoid a looming monstrosity is to run right in front of it? Or at it? Or are they simply deciding “run” and take off in whichever direction they’re pointing?
Or, perhaps more terrifying…are they out to get us? I almost wrote this piece from the perspective of some deer fueled apocalypse scenario.
The answer to these questions for me is still a resounding “I dunno.”
The coworker I told you about? Another funny story. One time I was driving right behind leaving work. A deer stared her down as she passed. She was already by the damn thing. It had nothing more to worry about from her. But it started to run anyway. What followed, while not necessarily all that “high speed” was probably the most insane drag race I’ve ever witnessed. And I’ve seen a rocket powered tractor trailer hit 200mph mind you. The damn thing chased her down and she had the good sense to slow down just in time for it to cut across the road and into the woods on the other side. It could have decided to cut behind her at any point and had zero risk, since I had slowed way down and left a huge cushion. Instead it kept accelerating because it just HAD to get ahead of her. The other two deer it had been with did precisely…nothing.
With a lot of these thoughts already in my head, you can imagine I wasn’t surprised in the least when I saw the group of three deer today on the way home. In case you were wondering, I wasn’t following this coworker today. She had left early to take care of some business with her newly jacked up vehicle.
I bet you weren’t surprised that I told you I ran into some deer either. You might be a little surprised to know that I don’t mean this literally. I made it through another trip home without hitting one of the darn things.
But the effin’ squirrels today. My apocalypse article would have included how squirrels and deer were collaborating to kill us. Maybe if they can get enough of us to swerve off the road, they think we’ll stay off them or something. Again, I dunno.
Just like the deer I saw, I came across three squirrels. Better put: in the 9.4 miles I traveled, I was witness to a three part play on the nature of crisis reactions. Performed by squirrels.
We’ll start with the second squirrel, who ran right in front of my car maybe 10 seconds after I came across the first. I didn’t swerve (because swerving is bad), but I did slow down. This little guy chose flight. As he exited the roadway, my tire missed him by about a foot.
A few miles down the road, the third squirrel chose to freeze. After running in front of my car at the last second, I had no chance to slow down significantly or adjust my position on the road (remember don’t swerve). This little guy hunkered down and sat there motionless. I was relieved to see it move again in the rear-view.
But the first guy chose to fight. Remember, don’t ever swerve your car. Even in the event of a deer, the animal is better for you to hit than a tree, telephone poll, ditch or oncoming traffic. DON’T. EVER. SWERVE…
I did veer a little though. And slowed way down. I saw squirrel number one coming all the way. I did everything I could to avoid him. I was far enough left. I was slow enough for it to get away. Which is why it was even more perplexing and upsetting when it leapt directly under the car. The sound and the resulting aftermath in the rear-view were not able to bring the same relief as squirrel number 3.
Is there a moral to the story? Damned if I know. At the very least, it’s that I had a weird ass afternoon drive.