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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Almost

This morning on my way to work, I nearly hit a person who was riding a ten speed bike. At 6:25 this morning, I pulled out of my subdivision. Time to make the doughnuts and all that. The sun hadn't even come up yet. The only light came from my headlights and some approaching cars, but they were at least two blocks away. A perfect time to join the throng of drivers doing the morning commute. In the middle of turning on to the main street, my peripheral vision kicked in. Movement just outside my passenger window. A blurred object that didn't even register as a color. Only after completing the turn and looking in my rear view mirror did I put two and two together. A silhouette of a man riding a bike. The oncoming headlights illuminating him. I did a quick recap. Nothing hit my truck. No sound of warning or injury. A quick look at his posture on the bike told me he wasn't injured or in trouble.
So why the hell was he riding around with no lights or reflectors? He might have had to swerve, we were that close. Inside my second circle: the brace for impact perimeter.
Now I can understand having to ride a bike in order to get from point A to B. In a perfect world, I'd be the one pedalling to work, if my place of employment were closer and my balance weren't so shitty.
What was he doing out before dawn without any gear to alert other drivers? Face it, I got lucky... and so did he.

Many years ago, I did hit a pedestrian. Going to community college part time and taking a morning class is sometimes what it takes. Like all community colleges, parking is a pain in the ass. So here I was, winding my way through near downtown city streets, angling for a parking spot.
Suddenly a dark shape leaps out from between two cars into the street right in front of my vehicle. There was barely enough time to slam on the brakes. A thump and a dark skinned bare butt and thigh rolled over my windshield.
Several things registered all at once while my instinct to do the right thing over rode my caution.
'That was one hairy leg that took off my wiper.'
'Oh my God, I hit a person. There wasn't time to stop.'
'Is he all right? Is he bleeding? Did I just kill him?'
Leaping out of my car, I ran around the back. The man had one hand on the trunk, the other hidden by the angle of my car.
Mr. caution spoke up and I became aware of two facts:
I had just gotten out of my car in a bad section of town while it was still technically night.
The man I'd just hit was naked as a jaybird.
If he had a gun or knife in his hand, I was so dead.
Instead, he picked up his Frank Sinatra style fedora hat, put it on his head, and said, "Man I'm outta here." He took off running down San Pedro Avenue in his birthday suit. Not the sidewalk... directly down the median.
At that moment, I saw a flash of light over my left shoulder, a police car.
Relief beyond measure flooded me. Never in my entire life was I so happy to see the cops.
"Officer, officer. I just hit a naked black man! He took off down the street."
"Is he armed?"
"No, just a hat."
Two more police cars came out of nowhere and quickly caught the streaking jogger before he got too far.
Answering the questions as best I could, I told the police everything.
"We've been chasing him most of the night. He must have forgotten to take his medication or whatever," The officer said.
Part of me knew it wasn't my fault, but I wanted to be clear. "I hit the man," I said. "Am I going to be charged or arrested?"
The officer shook his head. "He wasn't wearing anything reflective. You had no warning. Hell, you slowed him down for us."
This did make me late for class however.
"I hope you have a valid excuse for being late," the teacher said as I entered the classroom.
Without missing a beat, I slapped the police report on his desk. "Actually, yes, I do."
My hands were shaking so badly from the shock and adrenaline, I had a tough time finishing up the day. The story was good enough to get some beers from my friends who wanted details.
My life is never dull.
 

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