Yesterday while I was waiting for my bus to go to work, I watched a woman dressed oddly step off the curb across the street. The street in question is a six-lane major arterial that is nicknamed, among regional transportation professionals, “the little freeway.” It isn’t an actual highway, but it is very busy, and drivers routinely zoom along over the speed limit.
She stepped off right in front of a car. My heart jumped a beat. The driver swerved and missed her (luckily the next lane had an opening for him to swerve into). The driver tapped his horn. Just a quick tap, not a long, angry lean on the button thing. The woman flipped off the car and started shouting.
She did not retreat to the curb. She ambled further, crossing lanes, as cars stopped for the crazy person. She kept yelling angrily, occassionally flipping the bird in random directions as she craned her neck and tried to look over all the cars now stopped for her, as if she were trying to see if a bus was coming (there’s a big bus stop going the other way right across from the one I catch my work bus to).
Still yelling angrily, she ambled back to the curb and started walking toward the corner.
Traffic began moving again.
She got to the corner, and without waiting for the light or even looking, she stepped off in the crosswalk. Again, miraculalously, cars stopped. She crossed, getting honked at only one more time. Once she reached our side, she was still angrily yelling, apparently at some invisible person right in front of her.
I had a brief moment of worry that the crazy lady was going to try to get on our bus (which was one of the vehicles that had had to stop to let her cross). She didn’t; she stalked right through the crowd waiting for the bus, yelling all the way, without meeting anyone’s eyes.
Later, during lunch, I was reading my usual news sites. At about the same time this lady was playing chicken with traffic, in another part of town, a man was seen sitting in the middle of a road. His legs were crossed, elbows on hos knees, and his face buried in his hands as if he were crying. A couple pedestrian passers-by called to him to get out of the road. One stepped off the curb and approached him.
A car came careening down the road. The bypasser who had stepped off the curb jumped back. The car did not stop. It struck the man, killing him, and kept going as if nothing had happened. Police apprehended him a short distance away. The 23-year-old has been booked into jail for driving under the influence and vehicular homicide.
Reading that made my heart skip a beat again, and I marvelled, briefly, that the woman I watched had avoided a similar fate.
In the evening, shortly after I got home, my husband came into the house and told me about his day. The second thing he told me was that he had been run over on his way into work. He rides his bike to and from work. He said he was riding along in the bike lane, when a woman chatting on her cell phone suddenly turned right.
“I was banging on the front of the car after she stopped, trying to get her to back up, because my leg was pinned under my bike, which was pinned under her car.”
He insisted he was uninjured, and I couldn’t prove otherwise. Amazingly, all he had to do for the bike was replace his front tire. There’s a bicycle repair shop right next to his place of work.
He rode the bike home from work.
Three times, yesterday, traffic incidents made my heart skip a beat.
Of the stories, the one that still amazes me most is the crazy lady who was never struck. Not because she did anything to protect herself. It was entirely because a large number of drivers were alert enough to see her and stop.
The saddest is the guy killed by the drunk driver. Why was he sitting in the rode? Was he mentally ill or severely impaired and just didn’t realize where he was? Was there some sort of medical issue playing out? Was he hoping to get killed? We’ll never know.
The one that most frightens me, of course, is my husband’s accident. Unlike the others, he was right where he was supposed to be: obeying the laws, wearing his helmet, flashing lights on his bicycle, the whole thing. He came only inches from injury or far worse because a driver was paying more attention to something other than her driving.
I don’t tell him I love him often enough.