Family Matters

Family Matters

By the Skin of Our Teeth

By Richard Handler

January/February 2007

One blustery evening during a cold Toronto winter, with snowflakes falling and my head tucked deep into my coat, I crossed a busy street and was almost slammed by a streetcar. This is the story of a nonevent, the sort of unreality that rarely makes the news. The world is full of them: near hits and misses. We narrowly avoid disaster all the time, and usually just stuff it all away; relegate it to some remote corner of our minds.

I'd just finished eating dinner with a friend at a Chinese restaurant on Spadina Avenue. We had to cross the road, which has long stretches without traffic lights. My friend and I got halfway across to the thin, raised strip that divides the avenue. I was about to continue across when a streetcar (yes, we still have them) came barreling by. Sure, I usually check over my shoulder when I cross the street, but not this time.

Had the streetcar sped by one second earlier and a couple of feet closer, I'd have walked smack into it, making me the tragic accident victim on the evening news. All sorts of people who never knew me would shake their heads and . . . sigh.

But I pulled back, just in time. Whew! What flashed as the streetcar rattled by wasn't my life, as people often say: it was the many other times I'd almost been killed by cars, or vast, lumbering trucks, or those kamikazes of the city, the local bicycle couriers with their killer mountain bikes.

I suddenly thought back to the day, years ago, when I was hitchhiking in…

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