Grasping a hot coal

Published 2012-07-26

First: I am fine, the bike is fine. Scrapes and bumps for both of us. I get worse than this almost every week racing.

Second: this kind of accident never happens to me. I know to watch for it. I log 5000+mi/year on my bike and this is only the second time my body has ever touched a motor vehicle in a collision-y kind of way. I know what I’m doing and 99% of the people on the road, clueless though they may be, are not actually murderous psychopaths.

Let’s rewind:

A woman — let’s call her Sharon, which is not her name — driving an SUV in my direction of travel made a right turn without checking her blind spot. Sharon turned across the bike lane directly in front of me and I shoutyshouted “heyheyheybikeinthelane” then WHANG I rear-ended her.

Immediately Sharon rolled down her window and apologized. I said a few angry things (“did you even look?”) but couldn’t keep the anger up. She was very shaken. We pulled into the parking lot and she got out her license and insurance info. She was mortified and concerned to an excessive degree. Also: Sharon was in from Dayton for dialysis, so my empathy is kind of flowing to her as she clearly has her own travails more serious than skinned knees. I feel more bad for her than for myself.

(Sidenote: because my commute takes me past OHSU and the VA hospital I have a lot of interactions with people from out of town going into those facilities. Usually they are asking for directions, sometimes they are yelling at me. This doesn’t always happen when I’m on my bike, it can happen when I’m walking or driving too. Almost no one goes to any hospital in a good frame of mind, but add in a) a long drive into The Big City plus b) sick and c) the crazy confusing traffic patterns around Pill Hill and you get d) very freaked out drivers. I try to exercise extreme patience when dealing with these folks: usually tired, probably worried, perhaps lost, always ill. My life is a storybook compared to someone who had to drive 40mi at 7am for dialysis.)

If that was all that happened … end of story. Probably not worth blogging about. Certainly not worth calling the police, although Jenny did talk me into seeing my doctor.

No, the the truly special part was the witness, an employee of the dialysis clinic (let’s call her Loretta — which might be her name, who knows?), who specificially left her office to come outside to yell at me. Apparently — paraphrasing here — “bikers” need to yield to cars who are turning here and ride more slowly and also shouldn’t use the bike box in front of Loretta’s office because it slows down her commute. The whole vibe quickly took on a surreal quality, kind of like: “I just saw you get mugged, what did you expect walking around with a wallet? You people with wallets, why there oughta be a law requiring you to leave your wallets at home.”

Foolishly I attempted to engage, precisely because I was so clearly in the right: “always yield for traffic in the bike lane — it’s the fricking law.” But a few passersby came up to offer their help and Loretta quickly realized she was in the wrong. I started to collect witnesses’ names and I asked “Loretta” for hers (she was wearing nurse’s scrubs and a namebadge.) She quickly covered up her badge and said “I’m not giving you my name!” So I asked if she was “fleeing an accident,” (not the most precise terminology, I know, but my lucidity had kind of taken a hit too), and if, as a (presumably) medical professional, shouldn’t I report this and didn’t she have some responsibility to help me? Loretta’s repsonse was: “you look fine to me.”

It was so goofy and wrong I couldn’t see any sensible way out. I said to her “honey, Jesus is love and I’m sure you’re a beautiful person on the inside.

To recap:

From her office, a nurse witnessed someone getting injured in a collision. She specifically left her office — not to offer assistance, medical or otherwise, but to berate the victim.

What kind of person does that? What is in this poor woman’s heart that she picked out a random stranger to hate? Presumably she did a few things this morning that would endager her job and possibly her career. Leaving an accident. Not rendering aid. Not only did she not do the right thing, she made a special effort to do the wrong thing. This wasn’t a kid or immature person, from whom I would expect emotional bad judgement. Loretta is easily 10-15 years older than me. A grownup.

This has been bugging me all morning. Clearly she had issues with “bikers” and I was a convenient target. She maybe has other issues too, maybe she’s (literally) crazy.

But the random hatred: good God, why? Life is too short to burn up like that. What’s the saying? “Holding onto hate is like grasping a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone.” SRSLY.

I was just now meditating on Sharon, the driver of the SUV. I typed “I feel more bad for her than for myself.” I’m trying to reach the same place with this random crazy nurse lady from the dialysis clinic. Because, damn: what a sad, unhappy, sick, crazy person.


Update: Doctor says I’m fine. Also, check out my HRM data.