hikingWork would be safer, especially the more dangerous types of work, if we slowed down. It ain’t going to happen, I know, I know. We’re never going to slow down a meatpacking line. An auto assembly line. The pace of construction. Hell, we get bonuses for finishing on time or sooner.

Time is money, which leaves those clamoring about “Safety First” looking out of touch. UPS and FedEx drivers, pizza delivery guys, long-distance haulers, garbage collectors… who isn’t racing against the clock?

Right now, I’m not.

Three weeks ago I found a way to beat the stress of quotas, deadlines, patients seen per hour by docs, docs seen per hour by pharma salespeople, the whole rat race on a treadmill thing.

It was quite by accident. I was out hiking, ventured off the trail, slipped and fell six or eight feet through the air, and landed in a small, rocky ravine. I fell and I couldn’t get up. Make a long story short, I was found by some fellow hikers, strapped in a litter, choppered out of the park, choppered 75 miles to the nearest regional hospital, X-rayed, poked about and prodded, and pronounced very lucky to have but three fractured ribs and multiple contusions and abrasions. I was very, very lucky. And I was about to see what life is like from the slow lane.

In the past few days the swelling has gone down enough for me to chuck the walker and rely on a cane with four supporting little feet. I’ve started going outside.

First thing I notice is that life is automatically slower if you don’t drive, and I haven’t driven in weeks. No getting in the car and zipping here, there, wherever. Just knowing that car in is the driveway ready to roll accelerates our thinking and our lives.

Well, I don’t have that to think about and many of my daily calculations have slowed down. Am I a safer person? Yes. Because motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of work-related fatalities and I’m pretty much isolated at home, missing all the traffic.

My wife has driven me to a store a few times and to watch me prop myself up to get out of the car, grab hold of the cane, and slowly, slowly make my way through the parking lot and into the store, well it’s like watching a guy in super slo-mo.

I’m safer because I’m more mindful moving myself along in such an unaccustomed way. I don’t take anything for granted because I don’t want to make a misstep. My right leg, which I thought for sure was broken at the thigh, is still weak and swollen. So I don’t even amble up to the checkout, I move at something like an upright crawl. I annoy those with places to go and people to see and they’re stuck behind me in line, but they’ll just smile at me, wondering what happen to that poor bastard.

I obviously don’t recommend my method for dropping out of the daily grind. Way too damn risky to fly off a wall in a national park 2,000 miles from home. There are assorted logistical issues in getting home as well.

But it has made me think, slow is not all bad. Slow is safe. Slow allows for reflection. Slow aids and abets mindfulness. It’s too bad, and a little unsafe, that our culture puts such a value on speed, getting there first. I think the French are on to something with their long, slow, leisurely dinners and long, leisurely six-week summer vacations. Check the stats, do the French have few work injuries and fatalities than the U.S?