By Crabby McSlacker
This post is going to be a bit of a downer, sorry. It could be disturbing to read. (And not just in the usual way my rambling prose, illogical conclusions, and inconsistent adherence to rules of grammar are disturbing. I mean sad and sobering and depressing in a bigger sense).
But a semi-abandoned blog seems as good a forum as any for me to process stuff "out loud," right? As they say, blogging is cheaper than therapy.
And when life slaps you in the face with a graphic warning of the horrible ways in which one momentary lapse in judgment can have huge consequences, it feels important to take it in. And even share that warning more broadly, however unpleasant the reminder might be.
Gosh, sounds like a fun blog post, huh?
So here's what happened:
We were driving back home Friday afternoon on the main highway that runs the length of Cape Cod, on the last leg of a trip we took to New York City. We were on a section where the road is two lanes in each direction, with businesses on either side.
A cyclist was up ahead looking to cross the road. You know where this is going now, right? You may want to leave it at that and just remember to be careful on your bike and skip down to the usual cranky editorializing below.
Anyway, if you're still here: the road was busy in both directions, and with four lanes, even apparent gaps in traffic were hard to judge. We felt nervous even seeing her standing there contemplating a crossing. There was a traffic light further down the road; while it was a ways away, it would have seemed a better choice.
We were both horrified to see the woman suddenly ride off into traffic and go for it, trying to reach the other side of the road.
She didn't make it far. She was struck and thrown shockingly high in the air, it looked to be 12-15 feet, and when she fell back down and lay there not moving we feared the worst. Like many others, we pulled over; I thought about offering to help with CPR but others closer were already heading over to help. (Thank goodness; I've been trained but my skills are purely hypothetical).
I am not a person who is calm under pressure. It took me two tries to type in my 4 digit phone password to dial 911, my hands were shaking so badly. Once I did, it took much longer to get connected to the right local dispatcher than I would have hoped. From her questions it sounded like no one had reported it yet. Fortunately my wife has a clearer head and a better sense of geography and could tell me exactly where we were; had I been on my own my report might have been far more muddled.
After we'd given all the information we could, we left the scene; bystanders were directing traffic and doing CPR; they apparently managed to keep her alive until some time before she reached the hospital. But she didn't survive.
Reading about it later I was especially depressed to discover: the cyclist was one of us.
And by that I mean she was a responsible, mature, active woman, who cycled and hiked frequently and was described by a family member as a "health nut." She was in her early sixties and was out there biking instead of driving because, well, she's the kind of person we are. We know why we do stuff like that.
I'm fairly sure I wouldn't have made that particular decision to cross the highway at the place and time that she did. But I'm sure it looked safe enough to her or she wouldn't have done it. And how many times has impatience led me to do something arguably slightly risky as a cyclist, or a pedestrian, or a motorist? Countless times.
This was a sobering reminder of how high the stakes are when you cut corners with personal safety. There are few instances I can think of where being a few minutes late would be worth risking your life, and yet I suspect we've all been guilty of being slightly less vigilant than we should when in a hurry.
It sounds like she was a lovely woman; I can't imagine the grief all who knew and loved her are experiencing right now. And the trauma the driver has undergone: she was terribly distraught at the scene even though there was nothing she could have done to prevent it. We were only a few cars back, it could have just as easily been us who collided with the cyclist. Even just being bystanders has shaken both of us up a bit.
I really wish I hadn't seen the collision. On the other hand, might the horrifying memory save my own life one day?
In Defense of Caution As A Mindset
In the health and fitness world, we are constantly being urged to challenge our fears and expand our comfort zone and to "go for it."
In my own personal evolution, I've become much less of a worrywart. I've acquired more confidence in my own skills, and in the low probability of terrible things happening to me. Which is mostly a good thing! And yet as a result, I probably take more risks than I used to.
I'm rethinking that now.
Are you guys pretty careful out there? Have you ever experienced a compelling reminder to use more caution?