I never saw him

I never saw him.  It was like a flash in time.  The sound was unbelievable.   From afar.  A roar, then a scraping of metal.  Then silence.  Except for the thud as his body slammed into my windshield.  He sprawled on the ground, not breathing.  Blood everywhere. The mangled bike’s front wheel upside down and spinning as his life ebbed.  How could this be?

But for the luck of the draw, it could have happened exactly that way.

We had just finished our business at Rabobank.  Nothing complicated.  Nothing out of the ordinary that might distract me from the awesome responsibility of driving a ton of metal safely.

We strapped ourselves into our seats and I cautiously backed out of the parking space.  I tend to be more deliberate about that process than I ever have been.  Partially, it’s a reluctant concession to the ravages of aging.  An innate recognition that my reflexes are not as sharp as they were when our kids were young and I was sure I’d live forever.

When exploring  a parking lot I prepare myself for the worst.  Chances are that a car will be going much too fast through the lot, the driver on his cell phone staying connected, unwilling to give it a rest, assuming  an overblown self-importance that someone really needs to speak with him right now.

I managed to complete the backing maneuver without loss of life or property and proceeded to the exit, stopping and then positioning myself for a right turn, heading south onto Maricopa highway.   I looked once, twice, and made sure there was no one walking imperiously on the sidewalk while assuming they have a natural immunity to injury by car.  I then glanced left to be certain I would not interfere with an oncoming southbound vehicle.  Having assured myself that I would live another day, I began to exit the lot.

Hey!  Hey!!!!  he shouted.  Slamming on my brakes, I looked right to discover a bicycle rider who had been pedaling north in the southbound lane.  He was in his forties.  No helmet.  No fear.  Now stopped dead, almost, in his tracks.

Time came to a halt for what seemed like an eternity.  We slowly began breathing again.  We recognized what could have been.  He looked embarrassed.  “You’re on the wrong side of the road” I shouted with as much authority as I could muster while simultaneously recovering from an overabundance of adrenalin.  He looked even more embarrassed.  “You’re right, I’m sorry, really sorry” he offered by way of an apology.  And then he crossed in front of me and continued mindlessly pedaling down the highway…still on the wrong side of the road.  Not sorry enough I guess.

I rode a bike in the dark ages, when phones were always connected to the wall and when helmets were worn only by soldiers fighting in Korea.  As a kid, I can remember riding down the wrong side of the road, or on the sidewalk, and never ever halting for a stop sign.  After all, only cars needed to do that.  I survived in spite of my ignorance.

A while ago I was screamed at by a helmetless woman biker who chose to ignore her stop sign as I was entering  the intersection.  “Courtesy to bikers” she hollered as she slalomed, Olympic style, through the intersection and struggled with her now unstable bike in order to avoid becoming a statistic.

Two weeks ago Sweetie and I were seated on one of those cute wooden benches in front of Rains when two biking teenagers nearly severed our feet at the ankles as they careened along the sidewalk.  They used the Saturday horde of visiting pedestrians like a set of  pylons at a championship bike race.  I shouted “Hey, you guys don’t belong on the sidewalk.”  As they continued their dare-devil adventure down the sidewalk, I was treated to an ear shattering series of well-practiced phrases better suited to an X-rated feature film.

Yes, I know that the majority of bicycle riders are god-fearing, law-abiding citizens.  And my encounters with those on the opposite side of the coin are perhaps neither representative of the larger biking population nor even worth mentioning.

But it only takes a single exception to cause a whole world of sorrow.


1 Response to “I never saw him”

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