Sometime in the wee hours of August 1, 2007, I had a dream about being in a car accident. I remember waking up with a clear impression of a crash and all the air bags inflating. I don't often remember my dreams, but this one struck me because of the surprising level of detail, the emotional content, the fact that I don't recall ever having a similar dream, and because I had never before been in a car accident.
Because of the dream, later that morning I decided to play it safe and drive to work a different way than usual. The most dangerous part of the morning commute for me is getting on 101, one of the major North-South highways in the Northern California Bay Area. The entrance that I usually take has a very short merge lane that often requires you to drive on the shoulder because both of the two lanes of the highway are congested, sometimes by massive trucks going 70 mph. My adrenaline is always in high gear when I use this entrance because if an unthinking driver decides to park on that very same shoulder (it happens occasionally), thereby blocking the only available place to merge onto the highway, then the drivers on the on-ramp -- who are accelerating and paying attention to oncoming traffic, and not on who is in front of them -- are destined for a bad end.
The safer, alternative entrance is a little out of the way for me, but there is a very long, much safer merging lane. So I took that route.
I'm waiting at the traffic light at the entrance to the highway, along with a few other cars in front of me. The light changes to green, but before any of us have a chance to move, bam!, my car is hit from behind. A Chevy Tahoe smashes my rear bumper and part of the lift gate. The driver saw the green light and his foot responded before his brain realized that there were cars in front of him. The startle I felt on the impact was like what I experienced in the dream, but fortunately it was just a mundane fender bender. The airbags did not inflate.
Now, I had specifically taken the alternative route to avoid what I had experienced in the precognitive dream. But in doing so, I ended up in an accident anyway. Does this mean we cannot escape our destined future? That we have no free will? Or, does it mean that we have potential futures, and that by making this particular choice I had potentially avoided a much worse accident?
I prefer the latter explanation.