Sunday, December 14, 2008

More Reality Checks

I had a very close call last night. I walked to the mailbox to drop in some letters with checks, which means I have to cross 2 streets. And yes, before you ask, I was wearing a brown jacket and navy slacks. It was around 5 PM on a largely cloudless afternoon, and while it wasn't blazing sunny, it wasn't what I call dark, either. It was bright twilight.

The intersection I have to cross is a T, and I was crossing the base of the T when this happened. As I walked across the street, a car pulled up to the stop sign in front of me, on the arm of the T, and signaled a left turn. I had just about reached the center line, so I stepped out a little to allow the driver to turn behind me. The driver then pulled into the oncoming lane and came straight at me. I jumped backward to get out of the way, lost my balance, and fell in the crosswalk, rolling on my right side. If that judo class I attended briefly decades ago taught me nothing else, it taught me how to fall! The car missed me by maybe two handspans - a little over a foot.

I picked myself up off the pavement as the car pulled to a stop (still in the oncoming lane). The driver (a 60-ish white woman) got out with both hands to her cheeks and said, "My God, I didn't even see you - I was thinking about something else!" My personal take is that when you're driving a car you should be thinking about driving the car, but I realize that's hopeless. I pointed out to her that if she had turned into the correct lane we wouldn't have been having the conversation at all, and stomped off. Except for a sore hand and hip, both of which are largely gone now, I wasn't hurt; but oh brother, was I shaken!

The incredible thing about all this is that I never dropped the letters, which were in my left hand.

I went on to the mailbox, and a woman in a car that had come up (in the lane where the idiot stopped) called to me and asked if I wanted the license plate. On consideration, I decided I did. I tried to report this to the police and they wouldn't take a report since I wasn't injured, and no officer saw the illegal turn. I may yet file a citizen's report.

There's nothing startling here. It's been suggested that I should have been wearing lighter colored clothing, to which I respond that the driver should have been aware of her surroundings. But the most dangerous thing any of us does, ever, is have anything to do with an automobile - including walking across a street in a quiet residential neighborhood.


  1. My last few reality checks have bounced. I guess I'm overdrawn on that account.

  2. Do I have an anecdote for every occasion?


    About 5 years ago, I was turning left off of Fairmount Avenue onto San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito, California. It was twilight, rather greyish-dark, and it was sprinkling rain. Everyone had their headlights on. I was in the middle of the intersection, waiting for the oncoming traffic to abate until making my turn. For some reason, a big white van in right-hand oncoming lane, whom I had been waiting either to proceed, or to turn right, simple stopped over the crosswalk. I had been sitting here waiting about 10 seconds already, and I waited another 2 seconds or so, but he just sat there (why?). I turned quickly towards San Pablo. Before I could even think, or consciously perceive what had happened, I had stomped on the breaks, and realized I had stopped right in front of a pedestrian. Actually, she had put out her hand and "bumped" the hood, so technically I had "hit" her. I jumped out of the car, as did another man in another vehicle, and we ushered her gingerly to the side of the road. The police came. A report was completed. No witnesses came forward to give an account. I was not cited. CSAA, my insurance company, took a long account a week later. My insurance rate went up for a year, as expected. The woman probably had no business being in the crosswalk, since the "walk" sign had turned at least 5 seconds before she started out.

    The fact is that on any given day, a child or other person may literally jump out in front of you on a suburban or an urban street, oblivious to risk. None of us has any defense against this. Even if we drive carefully, and obey all the rules, and are of sound mind and quick reflexes, we can have accidents. Nearly everyone who drives, eventually has some kind of mishap or other.

    We all have anecdotes of craziness. My pet peeve for several years has been drivers who tailgate in the freeway fast lanes at 70 or 80 miles per hour, apparently an expression of naked aggression or simple stupidity (do they think "provoking" the driver ahead of them will result in clear sailing?). People who do this are really risking death--they're right on the edge, and they're doing it deliberately.

    But accidents do happen. As a pedestrian, I always assume that cars have the right of way. That's what I was taught in the first grade, and that's what I still do today 55 years later. "Look both ways, wait for all the cars to pass, then proceed, checking as you go." So often these days, I see people bounding out into lanes, head pointed straight and held high, daring drivers not to see them. Are these people insane to play this kind of chicken? I often feel they are.

    Older drivers are a common problem. Almost every day I encounter a big Lincoln or Cadillac driven by a tiny white-haired lady going 15 miles per hour, proceeding so cautiously that she's a nuisance to the flow of traffic. When I get to be 85, I do hope I still get to drive, but if I'm so confused and addled by that time that I drive like this, they shouldn't give me a license.

    Hedera, you deserve an honorary membership card in the Stuntpersons Guild of America. Duck and cover. Hunch and roll. Good show!

  3. I'm coming to the conclusion that they really are all crazy out there. I walked to the mailbox again today and took a different route that didn't require crossing the T intersection. (No problems.)

    My husband says I'm now down to 7 lives (referring to my only major auto accident, 25 years or so ago, when I spun out on Hwy. 29 coming up to the Jameson Canyon stoplight, and took out about 30 feet of chain link fence in the median; didn't hit any other cars, though).

  4. Awesome pedestrian-fu, hedera! ...and she still had the letters in her hand! Excellent.