Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live. — Mark Twain
My first reaction upon seeing the girl and her bicycle on the hood of my car was shock. I stared forward in disbelief as she slid off, in action-movie slow motion. David was the one who ran to see if she was okay while I sat behind the wheel and tried to process what had happened. I put the car in park and went out to join David.
I made a quick assessment of her injuries: scraped left leg, likely to lead to bruising; sore left hand — she was cradling it. She was shaking — probably shock and adrenaline. Clearly she hadn’t expected to be colliding with a car; if she had, she probably would have been wearing a helmet. Jesus, I thought, she’s lucky she didn’t land on her head. She removed the earphones from both ears, the wire of which was attached to the iPod on the ground beside her.
“Are you okay?”
“Dude, you just went. You weren’t even looking,” she said. I bristled at this. I had looked. But that wasn’t important, not yet.
“Are you okay?” I repeated.
“My leg hurts,” she said. “Man, I ride here every day.”
“I bet it hurts,” I said. “It looks a little scraped, but no blood…that’s good.”
Channeling everything he could remember from episodes of House and Nurse Jackie, David triaged the girl, making sure she could bend her leg and wiggle her fingers until he was confident that, beyond being shaken and a bit scraped up, she was fine. Then, as if to comfort her, he said, “There don’t seem to be any scratches on your bike.”
As we tried to help her figure out what she wanted to do, the girl robo-called through her contact list. Each conversation began with her saying, “I was just hit by a car.” I bristled at this, too — my car had been hit by a cyclist.
The girl said she lived less than a mile away. I offered her a ride. When she asked how we’d carry her bike on the Mini, I said, “We live, like, a block away. David will go and change this car out for his Saab; your bike will fit in the back of that.”
After another phone call, she said, “I think I might want to go to the hospital.” It was decided that I would wait with her while David went to fetch the bigger car.
As David pulled away, I noted the dents and scratches on the hood of my Mini. I looked down and stared at the girl’s fuchsia-streaked dark hair and waited for her to get off the phone. When she was finished, I dropped my apologetic tone and said, “I just want you to know, I was stopped at this stop sign for a while. I looked to the right, and there was no one there. Then I looked to the left and played the ‘no, please, after you’ game with the car there, and when they waved me on, I had just begun to roll forward and there you were, out of nowhere. You had to be shooting off the sidewalk or else you wouldn’t have ended up on the left side of my hood when you were coming from the right. And you were riding on the wrong side of the street.”
“Oh, if you want to do this — if you want to talk about whose fault this is, I’ll call the police right now,” she said.
“That’s a good idea,” I said, and stepped away. I couldn’t help but overhear her talking to the dispatcher: “Yes, I was just hit by a car. On my bike. The lady is still here. Yes, she hit me.” I sighed and rolled my eyes.
A moment later, I winced at the wailing sirens. An ambulance approached from the right. A fire truck zoomed toward me from the left. The patrol cars — four of them — seemed to arrive from all directions. I stood on the curb, the front of my shirt drenched in sweat from an hour at the gym, in pants so Spandex it should be illegal for me to wear them in public. As uniformed officers, firefighters, and EMTs surged forth from their vehicles, I swallowed any concern I had for my appearance and snuck a glare at the girl seated on the curb a few feet away.
When David arrived with the Saab, I told him he had to return home and bring the Mini back — the cops would need to see the evidence. He furrowed his brow at the number of flashing lights and left to switch cars yet again.
Emergency personnel surrounded the girl, who by then had a heartbeat monitor on her left index finger. As they questioned her, she made another phone call. “Hello? I was just hit by a car…yeah.”
This time, it was the firefighters’ and paramedics’ turn to roll their eyes. “Miss, we’re trying to decide if you’re coming with us to the hospital. You need to hang up the phone,” said one in an exasperated tone.
The girl ended her call in a huff. Then she said that though she felt fine to walk, “I should probably go with you, you know, just to get checked out.”
David returned with the Mini as the ambulance drove away. An officer took him aside to obtain a statement. While David was being interviewed, another officer approached me. “You know this is not your fault, right?” I looked at him, puzzled. “No one told you that yet? Well, don’t worry, this is not your fault.”
Two officers convened to my left to discuss the incident report. They went over all the girl’s violations (at least three), and one of them even mentioned the word “misdemeanor.” For a moment, I felt bad for her. She probably didn’t realize all the laws she was breaking or she wouldn’t have told the cops, “I ride this way five days a week.” And she was going to be floored when she received the ambulance and emergency-room bills, possibly in addition to a citation for her violations.
Once I’d thanked the officers for their assistance, apologized to them for having to see me in Spandex, and walked toward my wounded car, my sympathy turned to anger. Stupid chick’s lucky she didn’t kill herself, I thought. Despite my irritation, I was relieved that I had been moving slower than her bicycle when she hit my car and that she had taken such a short tumble instead of a massive fall. Because if she were seriously injured, that would have been tragic, regardless of whose fault it was. I hope the first thing she does when she feels up to riding again (aside from obeying traffic laws) is buy a helmet.