27 September 2006
The Kindness of Strangers
This afternoon, while biking home from campus, I did something really stupid. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I think I was signaling a turn with my right hand when somebody stepped into the crosswalk, so I applied the brake – the left brake only. That’s the one that stops your front wheel – the one that you’re not supposed to use alone, because when you do, you fly over the front handlebars. (And as Jonski Papa told me, “that’s why you’re always supposed to signal with your left hand.” Oh! Is that the reason? Who knew?)
I ended up crashing onto my left side, primarily on my shoulder. I immediately screamed in pain, then started yelling “someone please come help me!” Since I was right at a bus stop on a busy corner, there were plenty of someones to help, and they did. Good thing, because I could see busses approaching! (I was about even with the stop sign and have a bright yellow helmet so was probably safe, but seeing a bus bear down on you while lying in the street is no fun thing.)
It took 3 people to get me up – someone to remove the bike (it was on top of me), and one for each arm. My left shoulder already hurt incredibly, and I’m sure my face was contorted in pain. One woman offered me her cell phone to place a call, and I thought 1 millisecond about getting home (2+ miles) on my own (“I could put my bike on the rack in the bus… Nah!”), then accepted her offer and called home for a ride. Another woman offered to stay with me, then walked me and my bike over to a bench where I was to be picked up.
As we were walking, she told me a story of how her father was mountain biking, hit a branch and flipped over twice, and landed with his bike up on another branch. I think this was intended to make me smile, but I was too much in shock for it to really help. When they first retrieved me from the street, this same woman did some ‘range of motion’ kinds of tests with my arm, and told me that if it still hurt in a couple of hours I should have it looked at. I meant to ask what kind of medical training she had, but was too absorbed in my pain.
I cried and shook and tried to do relaxation breathing while waiting for my ride, but it didn’t help much. (I must have sobbed for at least half an hour before finally calming down.) Jonski Papa and I discussed what to do – wait, go to the ER, go to urgent care. He seemed to be thinking something was broken, because he didn’t want me eating or drinking (in case I needed sedation), and was leaning towards the ER. Yet from previous experience, we knew that the urgent care place is less impersonal than the ER, and when they can’t handle the problem they call ahead to the ER and send you over. So I decided to take that approach.
After more arm manipulations and a series of x-rays, the doctor determined that nothing is broken. The pain is probably from the impact and “contusions” (does that just mean bruising or something else?). She predicts I will be sore for some time (and will have giant bruises on my knee and elbow – the knee was scraped more deeply, but the elbow had asphalt and other road gunk in it!).
I’m glad nothing was broken, but feel pretty stupid (on top of the pain). But I guess that’s how many accidents happen, through some momentary lapse of attention or judgment.
On the bright side, I was able to prevail on the kidness of strangers. It was heartening to see that in a moment of need, people sprang to my assistance rather than continuing on their way. I was thanking people profusely through my tears, but I never thought to ask anyone their name. So whoever you are, and wherever you are tonight, I hope you have a warm glow inside, for having helped a stranger. (And if you missed your bus, I’m sorry!)