It was some years ago. My memory is clear, a Kennedy moment. I doubt anyone forgets their driving test. Even in those days, London suburb traffic was busy. The test routes were not supposed to be divulged by the instructor. I would imagine most were like mine who did point out areas we ‘may’ be taken on the test.

The test is scheduled for ten in the morning. My instructor collected me at nine, and I drove for around half an hour before arriving at the test centre. “Keep your mind focused on the road. I cannot teach you anymore; there is every probability of passing.”

I was in luck; the lady examiner smiled as she said: “Good morning” she checked my licence and we walked out to the Ford Escort. After checking my eye-sight, the test began.

Out if the test centre onto the main road. A series of right and left turnings. I realised she was going to take me through the town. I’d lived here all my life, travelled along the road with my father, and driving instructor. This morning I felt uneasy; everything seemed different. The traffic was slow-moving, and I wondered if this would make a difference to the test. It is strange how the mind plays tricks.

“Turn left at the next junction.”

I travelled along the road and about halfway down a woman crossed. I braked hard and avoided a disaster. Half an hour later we were at the test centre, five minutes of highway code questions and the test is over, and I’m confident the test is passed.

“I’m sorry to say you have not met the standard required to pass your test.” She smiled and continued “You were doing well until the woman walked into the road. I could see you had not anticipated her crossing. You should have slowed down well before you needed to avoid heavy breaking”.

Tears welled up in my eyes, and the shock was painful, how could this be? My instructor drove me home, and my mother made sweet tea and a bacon sandwich.

About five weeks later I arrived at the test centre for the second test. My heart sank when the same lady asked me for my license and tested my eyesight. It took ages to turn right out of the centre, and I failed the test by pulling out of an oncoming car! The examiner continued with the test, left here, right there, around the one-way system and then out onto the London Road. An emergency stop, followed by a reverse park and a hand-brake hill start. Then a return journey back to the centre. Sod it! I had to park in the most difficult space to manoeuvre into. I was glad my instructor would drive me home. She had to go through the motions of the test and asked me highway code questions, speed limits, and stopping distances. She filled in the form and said:

“I’m pleased to say you have met the standard required to pass your test. Congratulations “! I cried, and she smiled “You would have passed it last time if the lady hadn’t crossed the road. Good-morning”

It is part of life that we can prepare for a test. Every instance is reviewed, every possibility is considered, and then a stranger enters the equation and everything worked for is lost. For some time after the first failure, I blamed the pedestrian. Her lack of judgement had cost me my test and damaged my pride.

Later on, I thought about the ‘wrong place – wrong moment’ situation. If only the examiner had asked me to turn along the next road. When the second examination was a success the past was closed, I no longer cared about the woman and ‘her’ misjudgement.

One Monday in October 1987 I watched people lose fortunes. A chain of events which began in Hong Kong resulted in billions of pounds wiped off share prices. At the time (and still today) many blame the introduction of computer systems on the trading floor. My opinion is there were too many young and inexperienced traders. The panic was like wildfire.

I’d seen young men and women buying rounds of bottles of champagne the week before, and by Wednesday they were selling their Rolex’s for a few hundred. By the end of the week, many were humbled from the realisation they were as good as the weakest link. They had failed to see the pedestrian about to cross the road.

You may wish to know how I faired. There were some of us who saw the trend about ten days before, and we sold and held reserves. Later we picked the bones and purchased shares for pennies, which, a few weeks later sold for tens of pounds. This is another story and will not be recounted here.

The lesson worthy of consideration is this: We should understand our lives are bound by the lives of other people and the choices they make. There is no fixed route to success, and even though we believe we are ‘right’, there is always another aspect we miss.

Spiritual beliefs are fragile and subject to distortion. I listened to a woman with spiritual values saying how much she hated her ex-husband. She continued to blame all men for every problem in her grievance portfolio. It was uncomfortable to listen to her words. Men were pedestrians crossing her path!

I travel to work, stack my shelves and return home to relax in peace. During my evening meditation thoughts go out to those whose lives are damaged by strangers intent on acts of hate. I find it difficult to forgive terrorists and abusers, actions which test my spiritual beliefs to the extreme. There is no need to understand the atrocities. Evil is evil, and there is no way around this fact.

Nothing will change the damage done to the lives of families and friends who were murdered in New Zealand. There will be some who will never forgive. Some will pray for the souls of assassin and victim. Others who will desire revenge. But what has this slaughter achieved? Far from the result, the murderer wished for: his guns have unified people of different religions, unified good and peaceful people to help the survivors and their families.

No matter how prepared we are for life. There will sometimes be strangers who cross our path and situations beyond control which changes plans and sometimes life.

When we work to strengthen resolve, see the whole picture, and accept life is sometimes unfair. We will experience a more rewarding life.

Janine Love

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