Saturday, April 28, 2018

Tail Swing

The sign on the door says "DO NOT HIT THE DOOR."

I didn't. I never have.

In fact, for almost three years of driving, I hadn't hit anything with any of the dozens of buses that I've driven for Metro Transit. I'm so thankful.

But then, on Thursday, I was in a position that I'm sure I've encountered before. I was assigned a bus like the one on the right. I needed to drive forward and turn, being careful to avoid hitting the mirror of the bus on the left. I had to turn because the garage door immediately in front was damaged. I decided to turn left because another bus was too close to the garage door to my right. But, in turning left, around that bus' mirror, I scraped a metal protective cover on a pipe with the right side of my rear bumper. My perfect driving record is now history.

It hasn't yet been determined whether it was a "responsible accident," but, in any case, I reported it and am waiting to be called into the office of the safety manger. It's the first thing I've hit in three years.

The culprit: "tail swing." Tail swing is the motion that the rear end of any large vehicle makes during a turn. In this case, because of the limited space between my bus and the broken garage door ahead, I had to turn quite sharply. But the rear end of my bus always moves in the opposite direction. And that metal protective cover around that pipe was there, just waiting to clobber my bus.

I was back in the saddle on Friday AM and PM, being so aware of my rear end. I'll do the same next week. And the week after that. I'm sure, during the years to come, I'll be more aware of tail swing than I ever would have been if this accident wouldn't have happened. It was a learning opportunity for sure.


I've been thinking of that in connection with other things. For example, we're considering doing a project in our backyard. We'll create a "swale," a long low spot, sort of like a shallow valley that will direct rainwater away from the house's foundation. To do that we'll need to change the way we get from the driveway into the back door. That probably means we'll put in a deck or porch above the swale. We're looking at options now, thinking of using retirement savings, carefully calculating how much value the improvements will add to the house.

The "tail swing" is that spending those funds now mean that I'll be more locked in to working more years. I've said, many times, that I plan to work at Metro Transit until I'm at least 70 years old, but making decisions to spend (or invest) big money in the house will sort of seal that fate. Except, of course, if I have another accident, and if I am considered "responsible" for causing this one, there's always the possibility that I'll be forced to retire sooner. You can't have even minor accidents and drive for Metro Transit.

Lots to think about besides the swale and the future porch. If we go ahead, it will impact more than the backyard.

That's just one example. The same thing is true for every other decision. Unintended consequences, equal and opposite reactions, collateral damage: so many things can happen. It's actually impossible to keep track of it all. Driving a bus is do-able. But the rest of life is beyond human understanding.

That's why I need to rely on the Lord and His wisdom. That's why I need to stop and pray. That's what we're doing now.

Psalm 139:5 speaks of the Lord surrounding us, being both in front and behind. How thankful I am that he watches, not only what's ahead, but the tail swing behind.

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