Jane Macdougall: The Bookless Club discusses life and death, and CDs

Jane Macdougall and the Bookless Club reflect on life-changing decisions

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I never drive through exit 32 without remembering that day.


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If it had turned out as it might have, you would probably remember the day as well.

There were five of us in the car; four loud 10 year old kids and me. Three boys were in the back seat and my son was in the passenger seat. The rear of the car was filled with hockey bags. We were on our way to the Richmond Ice Center, just east of Hwy 99 at the intersection of Steveston Freeway and Hwy # 6. The area is an entertainment and recreation mecca with a water park, a trampoline park, a theater complex, as well as the multi-layered ice complex. I was happy to lead the boys to their game and their parents were happy to have the day off.

The boys were jubilant. Their team was on a winning streak and they couldn’t wait to get on their skates. The defeat was simply not in their vocabulary; life is perfect at 10 years old. My job was simple: driving. Stay silent and drive.


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I veered off highway 99 at exit 32. It was a shimmering spring day, it seemed a shame to be inside. But there you go, hockey. There was a car in front of us at a red light on Steveston Highway. The rink was only minutes away and the boys were getting more and more restless. As we sat by the light, the boys yelled at me to play the CD with their team song on it. They were already singing the lyrics. The light turned green and the car in front of me entered the intersection. It took a moment – a heartbeat, really – to push the CD into the CD player, took my foot off the brake and began to enter Steveston Highway.

I can still see the driver in profile, the truck driving past me, apparently over the hood of my car. I gasped and immediately began to self-complain. I must have misread the traffic lights! It had to be red! To trick! What an idiot!


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The boys were unconscious.

I walked the short distance to the parking lot of the arena. I still remember where I parked, facing south. The boys piled up and picked up their bags from the back of the car. I got out and stood beside my car, burned with confusion and self-reproach.

A car stopped right behind me. The driver jumped out, leaving his car running and his door open. He ran over to me and grabbed me by the shoulders exclaiming, “Do you know how lucky you are ?!”

I managed to get out: “Oh my god, did you see it too ?! just before bursting into tears. He explained to me that a fully loaded gravel truck had passed the lowest red light – had passed between me and the car that was in line at the light in front of me. He said he was surprised I still have my front fender, not to mention my life. He had not been able to get the license plate for the truck, but he had been able to get the name of the trucking company. He wrote it down and handed it to me. He kept repeating that I had no idea how close it had been.


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I was immobilized in the parking lot by what had almost happened. Apart from the time it took to load a CD, four families reportedly lost a son that day.

I did some research. I discovered there was a gravel pit not far from this entertainment complex. That the drivers were paid by the charge.

I wrote to the BC Minor Hockey Association, to the arena, to the league. I sent a letter to the Richmond RCMP.

Months later the RCMP contacted me to let me know that they had looked into the matter and given something about 87 tickets and had several trucks off the road for infractions, as well as some of the drivers.

I think about all of this every time I go through exit 32.

I think about it every time I meet one of these boys, all of whom are now men.


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Jane Macdougall is a freelance writer and former National Post columnist who lives in Vancouver. She will write on The Bookless Club every Saturday online and in The Vancouver Sun. To learn more about what Jane does, check out her website, janemacdougall.com

This week’s question for readers:

The intersection of life and death; do you have any stories where fate was on your side but barely?

Email your responses, not an attachment, in 100 words or less, with your full name to Jane at [email protected] We will print some next week in this space.

Responses to the question last week to readers:

Are you a lifelong learner? What have you taken now that you’re all grown up? With what do you regret not staying?


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• This week’s column made me smile. In my mid-fifties, I met a woman in Edmonton who was teaching drums. She had performed with well-known and lesser-known groups in Canada and the United States in the 1960s.

I immediately signed up for classes and every Wednesday after work I went to her house for my weekly class.

It didn’t take long to realize how messy I am, as well as the rapid development of shin splints and carpal tunnel syndrome. Certainly not an old maid’s game!

I kept going to my classes and paid my teacher not only for class but also for an hour when we often collapsed into hysteria at my weak attempts. It’s really worth it ! It’s almost two decades later and we remain best friends even after I move to Vancouver.


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Lois Kathnelson

• I did my undergraduate studies, mainly evening or correspondence courses, at the University of Victoria, Vancouver Community College, Simon Fraser University, Fraser Valley College and Okanagan College, as well as ‘at the BC Real Estate Licensing Course (UBC).

When I was 35, I stopped my banking career for 15 years and went to law school. I passed the bar exams in British Columbia in 1988 and in Alberta in 1999 at the age of 50.

Simply put, I have been “a lumberjack, lender, lawyer and leader, laterally to Lumby, Langley, Law School and Lawson Lundell Lawyers.” It’s 17 L! I am a lifelong learning poster boy.

Ian C. MacLeod

• I used to tell people that if I ever retired I could take lessons hoping to learn some of those scrumptious sounds from professional jazz pianists, never really believing I would. .


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Well, weeks after I closed my office, I actually took that step. I enrolled in the VSO music school, asked for and received my favorite jazz pianist, who was on the faculty, and started classes, first at school, then during the most of last year on Zoom after the COVID response.

He was a wonderful teacher. I don’t have the talent to do it well, but very often I spend a few pleasant hours a day at the piano.

Earl Hardin

• During my youth, I had the ambition to become a writer. Life goes by and finally, at the age of 44, I graduated from SFU.

However, taking science crushed my creativity. After retiring from a fulfilling career and reflecting on the future, the pandemic has taken hold of the world. I returned to SFU and finished my fourth creative writing class.


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As a result, eight motivated students, like me, formed a Zoom Writing Group. We meet monthly, share and critique our writings, and we have set ourselves a goal of “memory projects” by September 2022. Lifelong learning and new friendships are a win-win solution during the period of COVID-19.

Sandra Castle

• I have always wanted to play the alto saxophone but never succeeded.

When I was 56, I had the opportunity to join an adult concert orchestra called Brass, Wind and Wire. This is a weekly evening orchestral course created for adults who have never played an instrument or have not played for a long time. I joined as a beginner, on a borrowed sax.

A year later, after graduating from middle class, I bought my own instrument.

After nine years, the group class is still a learning experience as well as a social event and I even enjoy performing at concerts. I have to thank the band’s conductor, Brenda Khoo, for creating this wonderful experience.

Wendy Meloche



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