Last night, a deer hit me. Or should I say, I got in a deer’s way.
As I left my regular Tuesday-night tennis game (where four aging men still believe Wimbledon is a possibility), I descended leisurely down the dark country road towards home. As I listened to the mellow sounds of Sirius XM, trying to tune out the aches and pains of my stressed-out joints, I was blindsided. Actually, hit on the front driver’s side by a fleet, 200-pound moving target.
In one second, our eyes were locked on each other, both startled. And then, in a flash, my deer was gone. I jolted forward, seeking a place to stop and assess. Clanging metal banged the quiet suburban pavement as I drove to a well-lit area. In the light, I felt less exposed than on that dark road.
I called my wife, then my tennis partner and waited for his arrival. My door would not open. I waited some more. My door would not open.
My mind raced to and fro from that the singular moment of impact and intersection. I was shaken but stirred to act. I needed to get out of the car. But the door would not open.
Just then, my tennis partner arrived and yanked my door open. My two-week old car, which still had not acquired the dings and dents from strip malls and parking lots, was mangled and tangled. I stood in silence.
“You’re so lucky. He could have come through the windshield. You could have swerved into a tree. You could have been really hurt.”
My friend was right. I knew it. I was standing in front of a hardware store and not lying on the side of the road. Just a few inches in impact had made all the difference. Yes, there was a comprehensive deductible to be paid, but I would be around to write that check.
Why was I so taken aback that this accident had occurred, and demolished my front end? In the woody, leafy world in which I Iive, the daily lives of men and women, fawns and flora meet from dawn to dusk. Any way you look at it, it’s just part on parcels of the suburban landscape.
Every morning, as I wipe my sleepy eyes and walk my dog, I am greeted by the other inhabitants that inhabit my property. Squirrels scampering back and forth. Chipmunks cavorting past me. Hawks and cardinals constructing nests. The occasional fox, which I keep far from my designer hound. Turkeys in a row. A coyote or two. And of course, the deer.
They stop by all day and night. Pushed toward me by neighbors with elaborate deer fences, who are frightened by Lyme disease and decapitated flowers, these Disney-esque creatures find solace and sustenance on my property. We coexist through rain, sleet and snow.
My visiting friends from the concrete jungles of Manhattan rush to snap photos of them with their iPhones. More exciting than the Central Park Zoo penguins. They ooh and aah over every single one while us suburban dwellers roll out eyes and sip our wine.
One time, when I first moved to Connecticut, I found my visiting dad –a former Golden Glove boxing champ – gleefully crooning sweet endearments at a deer in my backyard. The deer bolted in panic, scared off by a perfectly groomed, bare-chested man clad in orange neon shorts, Italian silk socks and comfortable Florsheim loafers. The deer didn’t know what to make of this strange, exotic creature.
Yes, we still get excited when we see a mama doe followed by two or three fawns barely a week old. It can stop us in our tracks, taking us blissfully out of our daily routine. Who doesn’t love a baby, even a four-legged, spotted one? It’s a moment to behold.
But once they get older, lining our lanes and littering our driveways, our enthusiasm wanes. We do not wax poetic… instead, we use four-letter prose. Our skin is thick as we divert our eyes from deer who have met their fate on the tree-lined parkways that move us from one town to the next. Even when we try to see the forest inhabitants through the trees, why can’t we see a deer coming at us at breakneck speed?
As I made my way home last night, closely followed by my friend, I went from anger to sadness to acceptance in under two miles and ten minutes. My shiny new car was no longer pristine, silvery in the light of the moon. I hadn’t even made the first lease payment. A dark cloud descended over me in the darkness. This sucked.
And what about the deer? There was no sign of it on the road. I wanted it to be alive scampering through the woods, and feasting on the well-earned fruits, nuts and plants of my neighbors’ labors.
As I pulled into my driveway, I realized it was going to be okay. Wife waiting, comforting, relieved. Dog wagging her tail in excitement. Kids safe and sound in bed at home and at college. And all around me, creatures great and small, just like me, taking it all in, one day at a time.