“He’s been hit,” she said, her voice shaking. I just clenched the wheel and listened. “He’s in the ambulance on the way to Torrance Memorial.” She was choking back sobs. “He was in so much pain, almost screaming.”
“Thank God,” I thought.
That’s how brutal it’s become. Just hearing that one of my best friends was screaming in pain after a terrible collision caused by a careless driver is a huge relief, because it meant he was conscious, and it meant he didn’t have a catastrophic head injury. It meant he was still alive.
You will not have to exercise your memory much to catalog the people who’ve gone down or been killed of late. AR, permanent brain damage after being hit by a drunk driver on Sunday morning. DS, permanent brain damage after being ambushed by the PVE speed bumps put up the day before with no striping or signage. RP, intentionally injured by a crazed emergency room doctor who tried to kill him with his car. SN, killed a couple of weeks ago when she turned in front of a pickup. RH, killed when he lost control of his bike and hit a guardrail. I could add thirty more, easily, in the last six months alone, and just this past weekend a rider was completely taken out at Malaga Cove. The impact shattered the car’s windshield and flipped him over the car in a triple somersault.
You’re so damned lucky
It’s hard to look at anyone, but especially a good friend, when they’re all busted up and strapped to a body board. But you know what’s harder? Thinking, and saying, that despite the broken bones and long recovery and horrendous medical bills and post-traumatic stress disorder and reliance on narcotics to numb the maddening pain and having even the simplest acts become complex and agonizing and being suddenly cut off from the social world around you and losing time and income from work…you are so damned lucky. So goddamned lucky.
For the driver parked on the right side of Via del Monte, it hardly required a conscious act, almost like farting. “Duh, I need to turn around.” Never mind that it’s a narrow two-way street. Never mind that simply going to the bottom and doing a couple of left-hand turns would only cost you an extra 30 or 40 seconds, max. Never mind that your impulsive decision to swing the car out into the middle of the downhill without even bothering to look behind you, completely blocking the road, put everyone at risk.
Never fucking mind. And the Neanderthal didn’t.
For the cyclist coming down the hill, when the car suddenly blocks the entire road, something bad is going to happen. The only question is how bad. In this case, the safe descending speed, the years of skill on the bike, and the instinctive ability to pick the least bad alternative meant that the bike went down and the buddy hit the car square on with his shoulder. A fraction of a second later? A fraction less skilled? A fraction faster on the downhill? He would have made impact with his head. He wouldn’t have been screaming in pain. He wouldn’t have been saying anything at all.
So there he was, in pain, all chewed up from the crash, looking like hell as the doc went over each critical area, checking him out. Miserable, banged up, and wincing in pain, perhaps, but you know what? He was beautiful to me.
There’s always that one guy, and he’s usually a she
When disaster strikes, most of us do the wrong thing even when we’re trying to do our best, or we just kind of muddle through, halfway getting it right. And then there’s the person who waltzes in, grabs the bull by the balls, and, as the rednecks like to say, he “gits ‘er done.”
As I and my buddy’s son did our best, the phone rang. It was G3. Didn’t ask how anyone was, just this: “I’m on my way, dude. Am stopping to get food. He likes In ‘N Out, no onions, right? What about clothes? He’s gonna need clothes.”
A few minutes later, just after the x-rays and after the patient had been cleared to eat, G3 showed up with burgers, fries, a Pepsi, and awesome little In ‘N Out paper chef hats for each of us. You might think it’s stupid, but fuck you, you’re stupid. The only thing worse than being nearly killed by some idiot driver and winding up in the ER is sitting in the ER bed feeling glum and looking at your equally glum buddies.
G3 could cheer up a funeral for a mass murderer. Organized, able to assist the patient with the food, and even competent enough to help the nurse when she needed it, he did it all with the good cheer and goodwill that only comes from someone crazy ass enough to make you wear a burger chef’s hat in a room filled with moaning patients on the brink of death. In addition to the good cheer, he took stock of the entire situation just in case there were problems that we’d missed.
We may be crazy, but we stick together
By the time I left the hospital, my inbox was full to bursting with text messages and emails from friends who wanted to know how they could help. A quick FB check later in the day showed countless posts from his friends, wishing him a speedy recovery and offering to help any way they could. One friend was standing by with orthopedic surgeon referrals in case the broken shoulder warranted surgery.
It’s not a happy ending, but it’s certainly a thankful one. And sometimes, if you can say that much it’s a happy ending indeed.