Sometimes in this grand game we call life you come up against a situation that has no way out and no way around it. When that happens, you make a decision and then you get to live with it.
This happened years ago, but the memoryís still fresh.
It was a Friday evening and my family had been invited to a friendís house for dinner. We had the kids with us and , at the time, they were all under ten and our two youngest had yet to reach five.
It was rush hour, traffic was heavy, and I was driving in the right hand lane of a six-lane avenue.
Out of the corner of my left eye, I caught a flash of movement. When I looked I saw a cat running flat-out across the avenue. Pure luck got him across five lanes but he had one more to go. Mine.
Having once been a pilot and having driven ships as a career, Iíd developed a good appreciation of relative motion between moving bodies. Almost instantly, my brain said, "Bad news."
Iíll spare the details by simply saying that the contact was solid. This was confirmed when I looked in my rear view mirror. Iíve been a hunter most of my life and there are times when you know something wonít be getting up again. This was one of those times.
In less time than it takes to read, hereís the decision process that went through my head.
"Itís late Friday rush hour on a six-lane avenue. Trying to park the car on the side of the road, get out without having the door sheared off, walk back to the cat and wave my hands to stop traffic is likely to cause an accident that could get someone hurt. Too, seeing the remains wonít be an image the kids will forget quickly."
So, as I saw it, the best choice was to continue to my friendís house, drop my family off, go back, allow traffic to die down, see if the cat had an ID, and call the owners.
Total time to think this one through Ė a couple of seconds.
I felt badly about leaving, but I made that decision and, in all honesty, Iíd make it again.
About a mile further on, though, I noticed a car in my rear view mirror. The woman behind the wheel was honking her horn, flashing her lights, and making some extremely rude gestures with her hands.
I tried ignoring her, but she got right on my bumper and kept it up. To avoid an accident, I turned onto a side street as soon as I could, got out of the car, and prepared for what I knew was coming.
We met at her front bumper. The tirade that followed wouldíve made a Marine drill instructor blush.
The gist of it was (and this has been cleaned up a lot): "You unfeeling thug. How could you leave that poor animal back there?"
She continued in this vein for some time, but when she wound down, I asked two questions. The first one was: "Do you make it a habit to stop strangers after dark in order to yell obscenities in their face?"
That got her attention.
Then I asked a much more pertinent question. "Maíam, if youíre truly concerned about the cat, what the devil are you doing here shouting at me?"
That set her off again.
When sheíd finished, I offered the following: "My friendís house is about 10 minutes away. Come with me, Iíll drop my wife and kids off, then weíll go back and get the cat."
I ended up going alone. Iíve often found that many of the self-proclaimed morally superior amongst us sure seem awfully averse to reality and messy clean-ups.
When I went back, I didnít find a tag, so there was no one to call. I took the cat to a nearby vet for disposal. The vet said what Iíd thought. The cat had died instantly.
What brings all of this back is the carcass of a small dog I saw on my way to work the other day.
Busy highway. Lots of traffic. And Iíd be willing to bet that the driver faced the same situation Iíd faced years ago and didnít like the decision he or she had to make.
Sometimes it's like that. Sometimes the best decisions you can make arenít always easy to stomach.
For sure, though, theyíre the ones that seem to stay with you forever.