Snap decisions happen every day, from things as insignificant as what to eat for dinner all the way to naming a child. Check out these 11 decisions people made, seemingly small, but that ended up shaping their entire futures.
1. Squished Bug
When I was 17, two friends picked me up to go drinking at a bar across the state line, because it was known not to check IDs and we were too young to drink legally in our state.
We got about a mile from my house when I told them to turn around and take me back home. They were surprised, because we went out almost every night. But I had an overwhelming feeling that I wanted to go home. They called me a wimp and other names, but they dropped me off.
On the way home, long after midnight, they were hit from behind on the highway. They suffered no major injuries, but the VW bug they were driving was demolished. It was a rear engine vehicle, and the impact pushed the engine completely into the back seat – where I would have been sitting.
I have no explanation for my decision, but my life would have been changed forever if I hadn’t gone home that night.
2. Party Hard
I was being young and stupid, driving a bunch of friends to a party.
I didn’t know one of the people in the car, and I was a little bit sketched out by him. He seemed rough around the edges and was acting strangely. But he was a friend of a friend.
A police car pulls up behind me. His lights flickered on, so I pulled over.
I gave them all my information. Then they asked to search the car. “Sure – no problem, sir.”
We all get out and stand on the sidewalk while the one officer starts questioning us.
I’m off to one side, watching as officers dig through my car. Although I had nothing to be nervous about, I still was.
Then I look over and one of the guys from the car is in handcuffs – the one I was sketched out about. Turns out he had a parole violation.
I thought, “Oh wonderful. This is escalating quickly.”
A few minutes later, an officer comes walking over to me. He holds up a glass pipe and asks, “Is this yours?”
Wide-eyed, I said, “No sir, it isn’t.”
I immediately recognized that it was a crack pipe.
“Sir, it isn’t mine. I swear.”
He replies, “Yeah yeah – heard it all before.”
At this point, I’m panicked. I could see my life evaporating before my eyes; my parents’ reaction to getting the phone call that a crack pipe was found in my car and that I need to be bailed out of jail; the court appearance where I would get a criminal record, ruining any chances at a good career.
The officer was still looking at me, standing only a couple feet away. He turned and started to walk back to his car when I heard myself speak.
“Sir – drug test me. I’m telling the truth. Test me right now. That pipe has been used. If I’ve used any drugs they would show in my system.”
Apparently, that was the only acceptable answer in that situation, because I could tell he believed me.
We all got to leave, except for the unknown guy, who eventually ‘fessed up to owning the pipe. He also had a gun on him.
Around that time I started rethinking the fun party-hard lifestyle I was living.
3. Keeping it in perspective
I was on the beach in Phuket, Thailand with my then-11 year old son on Boxing Day, 2004. That was the day of the big Indian Ocean tsunami. The first wave was the smallest and we managed to avoid getting dashed on the rocks by clinging to a seawall.
The second wave came in as we were running into our hotel, and swept us down the hallway and into a storeroom, where we were trapped in the pitch darkness as the water rose and debris banged about.
As that wave receded, thankfully before the room was flooded to the ceiling, we made our way back into the hallway and started up the stairs.
I noticed something warm against my leg, and looked down to see that my inner thigh was cut open and I was bleeding profusely. Oddly, there was no pain. We made it to the second floor, where my wife and mother were pulling people from the water onto our balcony.
I told them we had to get to higher ground NOW. We made it to our rental car and backed out onto the road. My wife asked which way we should go, left or right. I didn’t realize how important that decision would be.
The main town was to the left, where I knew I could get medical attention. The blood from my leg was now soaking through the bath towel I had wrapped around it. I was getting faint and knew I needed help fast. But that road was packed, and it dipped down for a bit before climbing up the hill on the other side.
I didn’t know what was to the right, but at least it didn’t seem to be going downhill. So I made my split-second, life-changing decision.
Within 10 seconds of us turning right, a huge wave, the biggest so far, crashed through the low part of the road to the left. The cars and people on the road were gone in an instant. We all would have drowned had we gone left, as more than 5,000 other people did in Thailand that day.
Luckily, there was a resort on higher ground to the right, where I received lifesaving first aid.
On days when things are not going my way, the memory of that day helps keep things in perspective. Every day since then has been a bonus.
4. Rocket instinct
Several years ago, I was at a Math and Science summer camp where we made small toy rockets to launch in the field. The only catch is that we used actual oil and rocket fuel to launch them.
As we were getting ready to launch, I decided to move over under a different tree to get a better view. But a gust of wind blew by and gave me shivers, so I decided to go back to the tree where everyone else was standing.
As soon as the rocket launched, we knew something was wrong.
Little did I know that the rocket would crash land in a fiery explosion exactly where I had been standing before that gust of wind persuaded me to move to the other tree.
It taught me how fragile life is, and how it could very well have ended right there if I had not done something so insignificant as moving several feet to my left.
5. Midnight Bathroom Run
I had just opened my eyes and felt the urge to pee. I noticed my then pregnant girlfriend wasn’t in bed with me. I was still exhausted. Should I get up to pee and risk not being able to fall back asleep, or should I sleep in discomfort? I decided to go pee.
I slowly made my way to the closed bathroom door. I opened the door and I faintly heard: “Nick I need help.”
I look up and there is blood everywhere. “Oh my god, she’s miscarrying,” I muttered to myself. My girlfriend was too weak to stand up. I called her grandparents to come get us because I knew the ambulance would take half an hour to get there.
It was about 4 weeks before our due date. The doctor told us that everything was okay, but the baby was definitely coming. He said that, had we not got there as soon as we did, my daughter would’ve died for sure.
Basically, my split-second decision to pee that morning kept my girlfriend from miscarrying our child.