One moment last evening we were driving in our Suburban on southbound US-23 about 15 miles north of the Ohio border, returning home from a holiday gathering of the far-flung members of the Brooks clan. The next moment the vehicle and its five occupants began a white-knuckle slide over black ice on a stretch of deceptively slick and unsalted Michigan pavement that threatened serious injury.
The episode lasted perhaps 15 seconds, and it began as my wife started to pass a slow-moving vehicle about 50-60 yards ahead of us in the right lane. She was traveling about 50 mph, but the person in front of us was driving much slower, and when the slide commenced it appeared that we might actually sideswipe the rear of the car ahead of us.
Slide left, slide right, slide left, slide right.
My wife demonstrated a cool head and quick reflexes in the harrowing moments when the Suburban no longer gripped the road, and she instinctively turned into the direction of skidding and resisted the urge to slam on the brakes. It was probably fortuitous that she was behind the wheel, as I think she is a better driver than me in extreme weather and in moments of chaos.
She managed to avoid hitting the slow-moving car, kept us out of the median, and she even did all this with an element of panache that would have been the envy of Richard Petty. After prying my fingers from the overhead handle, I gave her a high-five and said a silent prayer.
And yet the incident happened so quickly that the adrenaline did not have enough time to kick in. I certainly appreciated that we managed to come through the close call unscathed, but I have to perform this intellectual exercise in order to remind myself how lucky we were last night.