It happened to me, very clearly. I was at the tender young age of 21, and was walking down the sidewalk in downtown Chicago. I was carrying stuff from one Harris Bank building to another. The streets were crowded, and all the parking places along the curb were taken except for one.
I heard a car coming at a high rate of speed, which was unusual, so I stopped and turned to look. A man in a brand new slick expensive sports car was coming in hot to that parking place. My immediate thought was, what an asshole, he’s going to hit something! Like the nice sedate Mercedes in front of that empty spot.
I locked eyes with the driver for a few seconds. In those few seconds, I could read his mind and knew exactly what was going on. See, it seems his fancy new sports car had a manual transmission, that he wasn’t used to. So as he wanted to slow down and pull into the empty spot, he hit the clutch instead of the brake. He was stomping on that clutch for all he was worth, and nothing was happened. He knew he was stepping on the wrong pedal, but he was committed, and it was too late to change it.
I knew all this from the few seconds of looking into his eyes. I read it, I saw the panic, I knew he knew I knew, and for a moment we were one. Then he crashed very dramatically into the Mercedes, and it was over as quickly as it had started. He sat there slumped over the steering wheel, banging his fists on it, and his mind flashed to me, stupid stupid stupid! Why didn’t I step on the other pedal? I had time to do it. But I just couldn’t. My body could not execute the command my mind gave it. It was too late.
He got out of his car when the man who owned the Mercedes came running out of the bank. He was quite upset of course, as there was a lot of damage to both cars. I stepped up to the Mercedes man and said, “Sir, I saw the whole thing happen, and I think this man got confused with his brake pedal and clutch, and smashed up his pretty new car. It was an accident, plain and simple.” The other man said yes, that’s exactly what happened, I am so sorry, my insurance company will cover your damages.
I went in the bank at that point to conduct my business, and when I came out, the two gentlemen were done talking and exchanging insurance information. They shook hands, and the Mercedes man went on his way, as both cars were still drivable. The sports car man looked at me and didn’t need to speak a word. He just nodded his head, with his eyes on me the whole time, and drove away.
I never forgot that day. That incident. It has stayed with me all this time. Sometimes no words are needed.