I am officially a Philadelphian, which means I can now gracelessly make my exit having conquered the city of brotherly tough love. What makes one a Philadelphian, one might wonder? In my resentful opinion, I think to be a true affiliate of this fine city, you must have been responsible for and/or subjected to dangerous driving antics. In downtown Philadelphia, it’s walk, drive or cycle at your own risk. Hide ya bodies, hide ya bikes! Stop signs and red lights are viewed as optional by the majority of motorists. Speed limits are merely a widely-ignored suggestion. Because of this, being hit by a car while riding a bicycle or witnessing a bike accident is a right of passage in Philly.
Earlier this month while riding in the “bike lane,” I was hit by a car on my way to work. I put bike lane in quotes because even though it is a space designated for bikes, in reality it is just an extra stretch of roadway for other vehicles to stop, idle, park, drive, distract and swing open their driver side doors without any regard for cyclists. If permitted, I’d rather take my chances riding towards oncoming traffic, especially in areas with parking on both sides which doesn’t allot much wiggle room. I’d prefer to be aware of and in control of what is coming towards me instead of behind me at an alarming speed, but was once yelled at by a police officer for doing so which made me stop and follow rules against all logic. Apparently Philadelphia’s biggest concern in regards to crime is the direction of rogue bike riders.
On the morning I got T-boned, I was midway through my routine commute, paying close attention to obstacles in the form of stray pedestrians, food trucks, road work and pot holes when I was blindsided by a careless driver. I had just passed the overwhelming stench of raw fish near the Italian Market when I was struck by a gold sedan. That is the only detail I can remember about the car itself, not because of damage incurred to my unprotected noggin, but because I temporarily blacked out from the sheer absurdity of the situation. Surely death would have given me a more noble farewell, I’d thought in my panicked haze, not just roadkill on Washington Avenue.
Instead of hitting the brakes, the driver seemed to have kept her foot on the gas, ignoring the human attached to her bumper. The car kept pushing into my right calf as it moved my bike forward and sideways. I believe I may have let out a girlish scream for her to stop, or to accelerate so I could use a lawsuit to pay off my loans (semi-kidding). When the two-second terror ended, my bike had been horizontally repositioned. I sort of just tipped over and scurried off the seat until both feet were on solid ground. I looked down at my hurt leg and at my bike to make sure everything was still attached. Save a couple of spokes that were loosely dangling from the front wheel, I managed to escape physically uninjured.
After assessing that my piece-of-shit bike was only slightly shittier, I almost robotically hopped back on the seat and continued riding down the road. I was already late for work as is. But then it occurred to me that I had just been hit by a car and should communicate to the driver that I didn’t really appreciate that. I stood my ground and looked at the driver, motioning for her to get out of the car to have a chat woman to woman. Only, she made no attempt to get out of her vehicle. She just stared at me, presumably hoping the problem would simply go away if she didn’t acknowledge it happened. Not that I can really fault her reasoning, I have the exact same response to all the overwhelming troubles in my life, too.
Except in this moment, as I reminded her, “you just hit me, you need to get out of your car.” She didn’t budge and seemed irritated that I was alive and standing in her way. Still in refusal, an onlooker, a curly-haired guy in a robber hat, glasses and grey sweatshirt, whose name I believe may have been Kevin, ran across the street to help. He wasn’t quite as polite as I had been in asking the woman to exit her vehicle to address the whole hitting of a person debacle. Rather, he enthusiastically yelled, “Get the F*CK out of your car. Get out of your F*CKING car B*ITCH, you just hit her!”
She finally rolled down her window to tell me and my new friend, Maybe Kevin, that she had been trying to back up this whole time, even though absolutely nothing was preventing her from doing so. She was definitely caught in her own hit and run. Ba dum tss. Maybe Kevin must’ve been Paula Abduled too many times in his day, because he was having none of this girl’s nonsense. I liked Maybe Kevin. I honestly felt I could’ve left at that point and let him handle this, because he was doing a much better job than I.
She eventually backed up, parked, got out of the car and ran over to feign sympathy, “First of all, are you okay?” Okay, first of all, you just tried to abandon me like a dead deer on a dark country road, you obviously aren’t concerned for my well-being. Still not fully processing the sheer ludicrousness of this unnecessary inconvenience, I said “yes, but I need your license.” Actually, Maybe Kevin, said that last part. I mostly just stood there, remembering that I had prematurely clocked into work on my iPhone app and wondering if this was my karmic retribution for trying to get paid that extra $2.50 before taxes.
Sedan Lady pretended like she couldn’t find her insurance information and handed me her license. Coincidentally, my smartphone had crashed two days prior and it only functioned on a basic level of making and receiving calls. Maybe Kev came to the rescue and took down all of her information and sent it to me via text. Once the exchange was over, Sedan Lady left, probably mowing down a couple of mailboxes and stray cats as Maybe Kev and I hugged and parted ways. Once I got to work, I really dramatized the accident as traumatizing so I wouldn’t get in trouble for being forty-five minutes late, when I’m typically only twenty minutes late.
Unfortunately for me, but incredibly fortunate for Sedan, my phone didn’t survive the night. I was planning on making a report of the accident the morning to have it on file just in case something happened, like if I needed a new bike or a new life in the form of a large pay-out (semi-kidding again). I rushed my flailing phone to the Apple store, but there was no reviving it. All of the information had been erased, including Maybe Kev’s contact information, the pictures he had sent me and ten-thousand travel and late cat friend photos from earlier this year, which was the most upsetting.
Thankfully there wasn’t anything majorly wrong with the phone and it could be rebooted as if it were newly purchased, only it wasn’t and came at the expense of losing all my memories. Although in retrospect, this may have been the long-overdue jolt that I needed to purge free from past hang-ups and move forward out of the complacent comfort zone I created for myself when settling back down in Philly for the unintended third time. The realization that I’m susceptible to harm even in places I usually feel safe has encouraged me to say “yes,” albeit begrudgingly, to an opportunity in a foreign city that scares me.
When I asked Kerri from Apple what the issue was, she matter-of-factly said, “You were carrying around ten pounds of shit in a five-pound bag.” I had to laugh at her accidental on point diagnosis of my anxiety-ridden emotional state in reflection of recent circumstances and the rollercoaster of events that happened this year. I found it to be a hilariously fitting metaphor to even describe life in general. I guess there is a reason as to why they’re called the Genius Bar and I’ll sure miss Apple Kerri’s amusing anecdotes when I’m lost and overwhelmed in Latin America.