I have been riding my bike through the streets of Chicago since the early 1990s.  So, I guess it was bound to happen.  Eventually, some day, somewhere, I was going to get hit by a car.   Friday, the car that I knew had my name on its grill, finally found me less than 2 blocks from my house.

Of course, I was in a hurry.  I was supposed to be someplace ten minutes ago and I had been dawdling at home: playing with the rabbit, talking to the cats, wiping a counter.  When it was time to go, I didn’t even notice that it was time to go, and when it was well past the time to go, I grabbed my bike helmet (thank the universe I wear one) and hopped on my bike, very aware now that I was late.

So, the preoccupation with not being where I was supposed to be no doubt kept me from making smart choices when I hit the intersection.  I usually go straight through to the other side of the street and then enter the crosswalk and take a left — you know, like I wasn’t a bicyclist but a pedestrian (it’s cheating, I know, and now I won’t do it anymore, I promise).  But, that day, the street was empty of cars on my side and I thought, “heck, let’s be a car and just take a left in the middle of the intersection.”  So, I stuck my left arm out to signal and gestured to the car facing me that I was turning left.  She was turning left too and waved me forward.

Now, here’s where the problem comes on.  Because I had initially planned to go straight through the intersection and not turn left, I was on the far right edge of the lane.  I was not on the left side of the lane, but the right.  If you’re driving a car that’s three feet wide (okay, I don’t know how wide a car really is, but let’s just say ‘wide enough’), it’s not a big deal because every one can still see you. On a bike, however, you’re pretty invisible even when you’re visible, so as I took that left I was actually crossing across the width of her car and making a left at the same time.  Is it any surprise then, the on-coming car which was coming around the other car that was turning left, didn’t see me?  For him, it must have seemed like I came out of nowhere.

For me, it went like this:

Grunt. Pedal harder. Turn left and then speed up.  Oh shiiiiittttttttttttt.  It’s a car. “UGH!!” [said outloud].  Speed up speed up speed up get out the way get out of the way. Shiiiiiittttttttt!  

My body braced for the impact on  my right side.  My right leg and arm expected to be slammed by a couple tons of car. But, in the eons of years that it took for me to speed up the car also managed to brake and when impact occurred, the car hit my back tire and pushed my bike out from under me sideways.  I managed to stay on  my feet anyway and was still moving.

Traffic came to a stop. But my brain said: keep going don’t stop keep going keep going.

So I did.  I was still on my bike. I just pulled it underneath me more and kept pedaling. The car pulled over and I heard a man get out and shout, “Hey! Are you all right?”

What? Who?   My brain said.

“Hey! You forgot your bag!”  The man shouted.

That’s when I turned around.  Oh yeah, my stuff.  In the impact, the car had pulled off my pannier bag which hangs on the back tire.

The part of my brain that said, “keep going,” slowed down and I and My Brain recognized that I needed to get that pannier bag because it had my bag and wallet in it.  That’s when I got off my bike and slowly, as if nothing had happened, I walked back to the corner.

When I got to bag which was in the middle of the intersection, the man, who looked pretty worried, said, “Are you okay? I didn’t know you were taking that left.”

“That’s okay. I’m fine.  Next time just look for bikes.”

“Sorry — about that.”

“‘Z’okay.” I muttered and got back on my bike.

It was only about 5 hours later when I realized that I had wanted to say that it wasn’t all his fault. That I screwed up too and that I hoped it didn’t wreck his day to think that he could have hurt someone.  He looked upset about it, but I kept going. That part of my brain that said “keep going” was in command and I didn’t find the space in that moment to say, “Hey! Don’t worry about it! Nobody died! Have a great day!”

I think of this now because there was a Dharma Talk today at the Temple about the Infinite that happens in a moment.  “Imagine,” he said, “your breath. There’s a moment at the end of your exhale, right before your inhale, when you’re not exhaling and you’re not inhaling and you’re not rushing to inhale. That moment is infinite.”

I don’t understand all the Dharma Talks, but I got that one.  In that second when I saw that car grille and felt my right side tense to expect impact, it felt like a year or two.  That second was long enough for me to see what’s happening, consider my options, and act.  But despite how quickly my (and the driver’s) brain and body worked to avert a disaster, I still wish I had done more with the time after, those 2-5 minutes afterwards when I could have said, “Hey, it’s okay. We’re all okay.”

But, I missed that moment.  I hope in another future moment, I will see that infinite space and utilize it to say to someone else, “Hey, it’s okay.” Well, I’ve said it here, and maybe, if the guy driving the green SUV ever happens to find this post, then, hopefully, he’ll know it.

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