In an effort to find a silver lining to talk about, there’s always the environment… which has been greatly benefiting from this pandemic. Cleaner air, cleaner water and all that. When the world slows down, so does the man-made environmental damage that typically goes along with it. Some lessons have been learned… which can hopefully carry on when this is all over.
But here’s a very different environmental message… you know David Suzuki… the environmental activist, academic, recipient of Canada’s highest honour… the Companion Order of Canada… the guy whose show “The Nature of Things” just celebrated its 60th(!) anniversary, making it the longest-running science show ever, anywhere… that guy. Three times in my life, I almost killed him.
This isn’t hyperbole… it’s not an exaggeration. It’s not “just an expression”. And certainly, it wouldn’t have been on purpose. But three times in my life, I came this close to accidentally taking out one of Canada’s most recognizable icons. All three times, it would’ve been his fault. And all three times, it was because he jumped out into traffic… right in front of me.
The first time was in 1993… I was driving north on the Granville Street Bridge, headed downtown. I took the Seymour offramp… and fortunately, I was going slowly… I was preparing to turn left at the first opportunity, on Drake, and as I slowed down, I guess he wasn’t paying attention and thought I was slowing down to stop because the light had changed. The light hadn’t changed; not even close… I still had a full-on green light, and as I approached the intersection, ready to turn, he casually stepped off the curb, right in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and came to a screeching halt. He looked up with an expression of great surprise and jumped back onto the curb. I rolled down the window and was about to unleash a serious torrent of profanity, but then realized who it was, so all I could come up with was, “Are you ok, Mr. Suzuki?” He was fine; just shaken up… as was I.
About 5 years later, I was emerging from an underground parking lot… the one that comes up on Smithe, between Granville and Howe… it’s a steep ramp, and the vision isn’t great. I wasn’t going very fast, but again, there wasn’t much time. As I approached the top of the ramp, well-beyond the point where most pedestrians would’ve stopped, he went sprinting by. Right in front of the car. I slammed on the brakes. It was close enough that he turned and actually touched the hood of the car. And once again, I found myself staring at the face of a surprised and frightened David Suzuki. That glance lasted just a brief moment… he quickly took off running… and I was left muttering to myself… “Next time, Suzuki, you might not be so lucky…”
Third time’s a charm. Third time lucky. I really didn’t want to test this particular third time, but of course, it wasn’t up to me. Several years later, I was headed down Thurlow, in the far left lane… and just as I approached Robson, guess who went sprinting through the intersection… with just enough time for me to slam on the brakes, see him look up with surprise, and watch him keep going. Apparently, he’s often in a hurry. Apparently, his mind is often elsewhere. Apparently, they don’t teach you how to cross the street in environmental school.
David Suzuki is now 84 years old. I would sincerely hope his days of carelessly jumping out into traffic are behind him… but, if you’re driving downtown, be warned… he may be out there.
I’m putting all of this out there for a few reasons. Number one, if I ever run over David Suzuki, it’s because the universe intends it to be so, period. Don’t even try to convince me otherwise. Number two, if someone else runs over David Suzuki, I’m telling you right now; it won’t be the driver’s fault.
And number three… well, speaking of three, there are three things that are coming to an end soon. The year 2020, the Trump presidency, the pandemic. In that order. Good riddance.
Once this pandemic is over, we can once again focus on things that have taken a back-seat, but have never stopped being important. From the biggest-picture point of view, the environment. It’s still in crisis, but as we’ve learned, we can make a big difference with minimal effort. Imagine what a real, long-lasting concerted effort might achieve.
From a smallest-picture point of view, ourselves. We’ve all been navigating this unknown journey through our own, personal lens. The end is in sight, and as it approaches, it’ll be time to realize what positives have come out of all of this… and hold on to them. It’s something to keep in mind, especially on days like this, when the gray, miserable rain isn’t exactly helping the positive thoughts. The tolls have been heavy, both from the financial and mental-health points-of-view. But there will be sunnier days ahead, in every sense of the expression.
Try to keep that in mind… except when you’re driving downtown. Then, just concentrate… and focus on pedestrians…
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