You're probably thinking, "How could someone get run over by a dump truck
and live to write about it?" So I'll tell you right off that I've never actually been run over by a dump truck, but since those who have probably didn't live to write about it, I will share my ruminations on the subject with you, because I was once almost
run over by a dump truck.
It was a cold and windy morning many years ago, before I could drive legally. Thus, I rode the bus to school every morning. Given the choice, I probably wouldn't have ridden the bus to school, although I'd have happily ridden it pretty much anywhere else it wanted to take me; but I rode it to school anyway because certain family members who were legally allowed to drive had mandated that I do so. In any case, on this cold and windy morning, as on other mornings, I trudged to the bottom of the hill and waited on the corner with the other kids for the bus to arrive.
Now, since it's important that you understand the physics of the situation, it is necessary for me to explain a few things to you. The intersection at which I was standing consisted of one major road crossing east to west and one minor residential road crossing from north to south. It just so happened that I was standing at the southeast corner of this intersection. The school bus always approached from the residential road to the north, turned left (that is, east) onto the main road, and stopped so we could board.
I have no doubt, astute reader, that it has occurred to you that this is probably not the most efficient way this could have been done. Ideally, the bus would have stopped on the low-traffic residential street rather than on the high-traffic throughfare, what with it being rush hour and all. Unfortunately, certain route planners apparently were not as astute as you, dear reader, and thus it was necessary for the bus to cross traffic, then stop, holding up two lanes of heavy traffic while ten kids slowly situated themselves in their seats.
On this particular day, we saw the bus approach the intersection as usual. It stopped at the stop sign and I saw the driver look both ways. Then -- and this is what surprised me -- the driver began to execute her left turn. This surprised me because there happened to be a very large and very heavily-loaded dump truck no more than 50 yards away, traveling east in the lane the bus was turning into, at approximately fifty miles per hour.
It took me a moment to process this. I was sure the bus driver had seen the truck, because I saw her look both ways. She had to have seen it. She'd have to have been blind not to see it. I was certain that her foot must have slipped. She still had plenty of time to hit the brakes and let the truck pass.
Sadly, I had overestimated this particular bus driver.
As the bus continued its long, slow turn, it dawned on me and the truck driver both that the bus driver had not seen him. The truck's loud horn began to blare, and I heard the horrible screeching sound of its enormous tires sliding along the pavement as its brakes locked up. It occurred to me that perhaps the bus driver could still avoid an accident by accelerating as quickly as possible, but sadly this did not occur to her, nor had she even noticed the truck.
Completely oblivious to the world around her, the bus driver stopped at the corner. This is when I finally realized that something bad was going to happen, and that there was no escaping it. The truck was still going way too fast, and it was not going to be able to stop in time. The truck driver had three choices:
- Swerve left and hit oncoming traffic.
- Continue straight and hit the bus, which was loaded with children.
- Swerve right and hit the kids standing on the sidewalk.
Over the course of the next few milliseconds, it became clear that the truck driver had chosen option number three. It finally dawned on me that a huge dump truck weighing God knows how many tons was barreling straight at me, and I found myself saying those two words uttered so frequently by people in such situations:
I sprang backwards as far as I could manage, landing on my back in the grass, as did all the other kids, thankfully. The dump truck narrowly avoided hitting the bus, hopped up onto the sidewalk, and finally skidded to a halt a good twenty feet past the bus.
The truck driver literally launched himself out of the truck and ran at full speed over to the grass, where he made damn sure he hadn't hit any of us. Then he approached the bus and very calmly said to the bus driver, "Why did you do that?"
"You were speeding," she replied.
The truck driver stared at her, mouth agape, for several seconds before saying, "Do you know how many people could have been killed?"
"Maybe you shouldn't have been speeding," said the bus driver.
Their conversation continued like this for several minutes, after which the truck driver came over and made sure nobody was going into shock. Then he got back in his truck and continued on his way, no doubt shaking his head at the bus driver's stupidity.
We kids got on the bus and went to school. What else could we do? The next morning, a dump truck approached our intersection, slowed quite a bit, and then honked its horn twice. We all waved.
And the next morning, after berating me for waiting a whole day to tell her what had happened, my mom drove me to school.