First off I had no intention of leaving a cliffhanger. Two things happened: one was that I was so totally demoralized I couldn't really write. The other is that I re-read my previous post and all the typoes made me wonder if a nine year old had taken possession of my hands. I hope not because a nine year old running my hands would have serious repercussions for my work performance.
It's true about how bad news travels fast and that's how one day you find yourself getting a message from one co-worker that there has been an accident and another co-worker, who happens to be an avid motorcyclist, has been hurt.
I get this bad news and I'm really really upset. I've known this co-worker since before moving to California and he's a good guy with a family and now I am sitting there worrying that he is out on the road or at an ER maimed or paralyzed or worse and despite my having a supremely bad attitude about anything motorized I actually can't stand to see anyone suffer an injury greater than a little humiliation at the hands of an angry middle-aged bicyclist.
But I am more than just upset that someone has been hurt and to get why you have to understand that this co-worker takes motorcycle safety to the nth degree. He wears state of the art protective gear. He trains on a track with a coach. He's been riding for something like twenty years without incident. He really really loves to ride his motorcycle and at the same time he comes across as rock solid clear on the dangers of it and so he hedges his bets as best he can with good practices and good gear and training. What he does to protect himself, those are his walls.
I have my walls against death and dismemberment as well. My bicycle walls against the world are careful practices, good lights, a safe-ish route, a helmet, a reflective jacket, a loud voice, an understanding of car behavior (maybe) and an absence of headphones.
Back to my co-worker. We find out that his head and back are okay. We find out that his hand and foot are quite injured. One toe will be amputated. Several fingers will be wired back into place. He's at the ER, surgery will follow.
My response to this is relief (he's not dead) and then a creepy progression towards minimizing. One toe? Well, there are still nine others, right? One toe doesn't sound all that grievous. I manage to hold on to this very comforting position up until I am treated to a picture of his foot sans big toe and needing a skin graft. Hint: it looks like it hurts. A lot.
It's been weeks now and I haven't been able to write about this and as an aside he has not been able to return to work much either. I wanted to write about how my co-worker loves to ride his motorcycle, as I love to bicycle, and he tried to keep back the wall of larger vehicles but ultimately one got through. He was hit by a car in an intersection; he was going straight, they turned into him. It's a classic bicycle accident, the hook, I can't help but notice.
So I am thinking about what I want to say, about bicycling and tricking ourselves into thinking we'll be ok and cars and I am in a bicycle lane and I see a squirrel dart into the street and I just have time to yell when the next car hits it and I see it's body half crushed and as I bicycle by it's shuddering in this sickening death twitch. I stop my bicycle and then continue on and although I hate being this way I cry because I feel so awful about this squirrel and I think about the blank expression on the driver's face as she rolled over an animal and went on without hesitation. The Contraption Captain is always very nice when I unhinge in this manner so at the next traffic light I cry and he pats my back and I slowly stop seeing that awful moment of impact.
A shiny Mercedes pulls up. A window rolls down. Really. Because when I'm upset there is nothing I enjoy more than a driver telling me that I'm doing it wrong. An over-coiffed man informs me in what he thinks is a nice way that he's a doctor and perhaps he can help because obviously I am on a bicycle and having a nervous breakdown and he has his MD and is in a shiny car.
I collect myself and say in a reasonable voice that I saw a squirrel get run over and I'm upset. The MD says in what he thinks is a helpful way that when the squirrel gets hit it cannot process what has happened to it, the vastness of the trauma.
I don't know what to say to this. The Contraption Captain uses the word "fuck" which is totally unlike him. I don't say that it is my understanding that when massive trauma gets inflicted on a human shock gives them some protection from what is happening. It doesn't provide me any comfort at all that if I get squished into the grill of a Toyota Tundra I won't fully be able to appreciate the extent of my injuries.
So here's the deal. When they came for the squirrels no one said anything because hey, squirrels, who cares, right? When they came for the opossums and the raccoons no one said anything then either because who cares. Then they came for our cats and our dogs and we were kindof bummed out. And they've come for our children and they say "we didn't see him|her" and we go along with that for some misbegotten reason. They have come for the motorcyclists. They've come for the bicyclists, they have definitely come for the bicyclists and they say that we ran that light or we were not wearing a helmet or we had it coming or we "took our chances."
They are the cars on the road and at this point, they've come for everyone. For each other even. I don't have a plan here other than if they come for me and you find out? Don't paint a bicycle white. Don't send flowers. Rise up. Take back your roads. Slash tires and set fires. Tear down signs and stop traffic. Blockade highways. Because some day, some where, we must end the way they come for us and kill us and continue on up the road.