Fool me Twice: Accidental Lessons
As the pain of the fractures from my biking accident eased throughout the spring semester of my first year, I retained a healthy fear of moving vehicles. I wrote in a column in February 2010 that I had held on to the severed bicycle pedal — the most portable relic of my accident, minus the fractures themselves — in a drawer in my dorm room.
The pedal meant a lot to me that semester, even appearing in a poem or two — it was “spinning like some black, foreign globe” or something.
This seemed especially apt at the time. It was a “globe” — a defining part of my life. I thought that accident would always be something essential to my being. I thought I would keep the pedal forever — in a drawer, or maybe as part of an abstract sculpture.
That seemed natural, even logical, then. Now it’s a good story, but a distant memory nonetheless.
The pedal is in a bent-up old cardboard box in my attic at home. Incidentally, the dorm room in which I kept it has since been demolished.
It feels good to move on from an accident. But moving on, as I learned recently, isn’t an excuse to forget the lessons learned from traumatic experiences. In this case, I will forever remember: in a motor vehicle versus Courtney collision, the motor vehicle wins.
Though there haven’t been any such collisions lately — knock on wood — I have been frequently reminded of the importance of staying out of them.
I was walking downtown to meet a friend recently, behind two people who were probably also students. The sidewalk was mostly empty, so I was concerned they thought I was following them — especially since my heeled boots tended to be distractingly loud. I kept a few feet behind them to implicitly reassure them I was merely headed in the same direction. As they crossed the street in front of a waiting pickup truck I followed close behind. But as we were crossing, the truck drifted a little forward. At first, I figured the driver had just accidently let up on the brake, but the drift quickly turned into an acceleration.
The two students in front of me were now in the clear, but I still had more than a foot to go — and the driver had clearly decided none of us existed.
A vague memory of my first-year accident came into my head. It wasn’t fear or a flashback, but more like a voice of reason — assuming there is one in my head — saying, “Hey, you know if you get hit again, you’re going to look like an idiot, right?”
I took that voice’s advice and made use of my past as a sprinter — taking a couple graceful sprint-strides forward. The truck continued to barrel forward, but I emerged unscathed.
The two people in front of me turned around, probably because my shoes made it seem as though a Budweiser Clydesdale was cantering down West Main Street. I exclaimed something unfit for print and then started laughing. My two witnesses appeared similarly amused — though also maybe a little concerned for my sanity.
It was a valuable reminder, though. Drivers who don’t see you aren’t unique to the mythic realm of first-years. They are everywhere — and I can’t tell you how relieved I was to miss the run-in with the dinky blue-green pickup truck.
Courtney’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.