Saturday, July 24, 2010
Too Close, A Little Comfort
Few things relax and soothe me like a spin on my bicycle. Even when running errands, the time on the bike transports my mind to a much better place, making the dealings with bank tellers (and greeters) various retail counter personnel, and even rude and 'get the hell out of my way' motorists somewhat better, easier.
The Saturday of the my aunt's eightieth birthday celebration there was a morning of errands. They were all in town so I strapped on my helmet and set off on my bicycle.
Moving along at a leisurely pace, several blocks, about a mile into the trip toward the first of three errands, I approached an intersection along with a silver mini-van. While scanning the field, checking the signals, on-coming traffic, and various other possible impediments to my safe passage through the intersection I see what the mini-van clearly does not.
A green wagon (and older S*b*r* O*tback) traveling at a high rate of speed on the cross-street from me and mini-van. Me and mini-van had the green light. Clearly, the green wagon did not realize this and proceed through their own red light.
In my head I am screaming NO! NO! NO!! At some point the NO came from my mouth. The impact of the silver mini-van hitting the green wagon rocked both vehicles. The exploding sound of the air-bags deploying is a sound I won't forget anytime soon.
Did I mention I was but a few feet from the rear bumper of the silver mini-van? Well, I naviagated a safe stop, got off my bike, and retreated to a safer distance.
By this time (seconds, though it seemed much, much longer) the driver of the mini-van had exited the vehicle and screamed to all the passengers (her kids, I discovered later) to GET OUT! GET OUT! The older kids helped all the younger ones out of car seats, seat belts and the like.
One of the older (maybe seventeen?) kids, cleared and van, one foot shoeless, and got on the phone, calling the police, I presumed.
The other older child helped all the younger kids (there were 7 altogether) away from the van and onto the sidewalk, lawn of the house on the corner. The driver (mom) had exited the van at this point and followed the younger kids onto the lawn, clearly shaken. I approached, asked if she was ok, if the kids were ok, and she nodded yes, and reached for an embrace.
I obliged, for that seemed like an excellent idea.
The residents of the house had come out to see what the commotion was all about and as a couple of the younger kids were crying, attention went to them first. But all were tended; chairs, blankets, cups of water, and offers of food were extended. Later, the family was given bags for the possessions retrieved from the van.
During the usual post-accident fray; police taking reports, fire disabling the horn, dousing sand on oil, gas, and anti-freeze spillage, and paramedics seeing to all possibility injured I spied that Margaret donned a rainbow ankle bracelet and that her kids (which I noticed immediately, I just didn't know immediately there were all her kids) were another kind of rainbow, at least three different nationalities represented.
I say "usual" like this is a regular occurrence for me. It is not. In all my years of urban travel, bike and auto, I've never been thatclose to an accident of that magnitude. Of course, I've seen some aftermath, mangled vehicles on the side of the road and such, but never a front-line witness, with pictures and sound.
The good news, no one from either vehicle (the driver of the green wagon was the only passenger) was physically harmed (save a scratch on Margaret's left hand) the kids, well-tended by emergency respondents and neighbors, had all regained their composure, happier after the all clear to retrieve toys and keepsakes from the van was given.
I realized this past Saturday, when donning my helmet, about to embark on another round of errands, that I hadn't been on my bike all week. I realized that one of my three errands this Saturday was the same destination as the "accident Saturday" and that I deliberately traveled a different route.
I realized that Margaret's second embrace was as warm as the smile on her young daughter's face as she complimented my socks, as I was saying my good-byes, to move on with my day and how that memory has lingered.
I realized that if I go another fifty years without hearing the crunch of metal (or whatever the hell cars are made of these days) or the sound of air-bags being deployed, that would be just fine with me.
I realized that though it could have been very much worse, it will take a few bike before the soothing, relaxing feeling begins to work a way back into my consciousness.