What a Day for a Bike Wreck; Custom-made for a Bike Ridin’ Boy

June 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Happy 40th anniversary to me and the late Marcus Weems!

As I wrote this, just after 8 a.m., I was floating (at least it felt that way) in the big, warm, blue June sky over downtown West Columbia, wondering where I was going to land. Not that I was worried. Whatever would come, would come.

I had been on a training ride from Lake Jackson to West Columbia and back, on my track bicycle (one of the one-speed, “fixies” so favored by the tatted-out hipsters with more style than sense), when Marcus made a left turn in front of me. I applied the front brake and backpedaled as hard as I could, but collision was inevitable. I hit his right front fender at about 15 mph, and thus began my aerial adventure. I know I was moving: up, forward, I don’t know, but it felt like floating weightless.

But the law of gravity always has its way, and and after a seemingly protracted flight, I came back down to earth, landing on the hood of Marcus’ Ranchero truck, punching out the windshield with my elbows and back. That was the first Marcus Weems ever knew of me, when he could not see out his windshield anymore. I never lost consciousness, and did not feel any pain, but decided that since I had safely landed, I would just lie back and take stock of things. The sun was glaring so I closed my eyes.

Moments later, the gawkers surrounded me. No one in provincial West Columbia had ever seen anyone get killed on a bicycle before. It was then, to their considerable surprise and perhaps morbid disappointment, that I opened my eyes and “Good morning. Nice day, isn’t it?” I had nothing else better to do, so I lay on the hood with what remained of the windshield as a pillow until the ambulance came.

After checking me over to see that nothing had been broken, they asked me which hospital I preferred to visit; the local one, or my home hospital, some 20 minutes away. Being brash and full of glass, I chose home base. And thus, strapped on to the gurney on my back with at least a thousand shards of glass stinging my back like hornets, we made the leisurely drive. I cracked jokes the best I could to make the time pass by. Cracked jokes are better than a cracked head any day. I had not been wearing any sort of helmet.

At the ER, the 800-lb. nurse gave me a choice; I could scrub the glass out of my back myself in the shower, or she would, and she guaranteed that she would not miss a shard. I hurriedly grabbed the big loofah and got to work. It stings at first but then a comfortable numbness sets in.

Towelled nicely dry and relaxing on an ER gurney, our family doctor, president of the local John Birch Society, strolled in, and with his his usual endearing sneer, asked rhetorically, “Well, what have you gotten yourself into now?” He confirmed the obvious: that no bones were broken and ordered some spinal X-rays, which revealed a freshly compressed disc in my thoracic region, where I had punched the windshield.

My parents were there soon thereafter, and at ten I strolled out the ER door — no wheelchair for me! Thank you! OK, it wasn’t a stroll, But I was under my my own power and on my own terms, albeit with two canes, just for the pleasure of showing my own Dr. Mengele that I was not the hippie pussy he always made me out to be.

The next day, being Father’s Day, dad, me and the  rest of the clan went to see the Astros play, as we had planned. The bike was safe at home after mysteriously landing in the bed of Marcus’ truck, with only a pair of bent forks. It and I were up and riding again tennish days later. It cost $50 to repair, and I made a couple of trips to the chiropractor at Marcus’ expense. Ironically, he was the town’s leading insurance agent. He didn’t get a ticket  for his illegal left turn, and we didn’t sue.

A friend of mine had her leg broken in a similar incident 15 years later, and got a new house for her troubles. But suing for what was considered an act of God is not the Lutheran way, or at least it wasn’t then.

Forty years later I still ride while Marcus moulders in his grave. The pain comes, the pain goes, but never out of moaning distance. We have become good friends, and it reminds me of what could have been, and perhaps should have been. I have lost many friends over the years under similar circumstances.

Why did God let me live? What, thus, has been the reason for my continued presence on earth? I don’t know now, and probably will never know. I do not wish to appear to be wallowing in self-pity. It is more like wallowing in wonderment. Tomorrow I will mark yet another Father’s Day with my children and father, grateful, I suppose, for what I have in life, and wondering, like George Bailey, what the world would have been like without me.

It’s a tolerable morning for a bike ride; rare for this time in June. Think I’ll don my brain bucket, saddle up and go for a little commemorative ride. Be safe out there, friends, whatever you choose to do today. I know I will. For who knows what next week will bring? A hit song (I’m working on that.)? A perfect day for bananafish? Life is full of surprises. Stay tuned.

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