Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In Which Captain Safety Delivers Two Lectures

The kid comes whizzing past me on his bike as I'm walking home down Houston Avenue from the bus stop. He barrels through a left turn at the four-way stop at Houston and Garland, straight into the path of an ugly brown minivan that's speeding down Garland. He swerves out of the way just in time as the minivan skids to a stop. I meet the driver's eyes, shake my head, and move my hand up and down with the palm pointing towards the ground in the universal "slow down" gesture.

The driver rolls her window down and yells at me. She's wearing big black shades and and a white sun visor. Her voice is a hoarse bark, well suited to yelling at people from minivans. "I KNOW you aren't telling ME to slow down!" she yells.

"Yeah," I say, "I am. There are kids on bikes all over this neighborhood, and cats and dogs, and you can't depend on any of them to be watching out for you all the time. And you were driving too fast. Your tires screeched. You probably would have run that stop sign if you hadn't had to stop for the kid."

She opens her mouth and closes it, then opens it again and turns to look at the stop sign with it still open. She's plainly seeing the sign for the first time. I start walking again. Behind me, I can hear her yelling as she drives off. "Oh, so I'M the one who has to slow down! It's all ME! Little kid comes screaming in out of nowhere!"

It's ok. She's rattled and embarrassed and expressing it as anger. I'd be doing the same thing.

The kid's sitting astride his bike a little further down, clearly scared out of a year's growth, waiting for his heart rate to normalize. He's maybe 12.

"Are you ok?" I say.

"Yeah," he says. "I didn't see that car."

"That's because you ran the stop sign. Some people drive really stupidly around here. You can't depend on them to be watching out for you."

He nods and doesn't look at me as he rides off.

I watch him go, then turn to walk on home, my cape swirling after me in the light breeze.

6 comments:

T said...

Good for you! Still, that's a commentary on our times if I ever heard one. She didn't ask the kid if he was ok, did she?

Rob said...

I think I heard her trumpeting something like "blah blah blah not even wearing a HELMET" as she drove off. That was as far as it went. But like I said, she was pretty shaken up, and she was doing that instinctive covering-one's-ass-by-taking-umbrage thing that we all have hard-wired into us. I think she was pretty horrified that she came so close to hitting the kid. She'll know better next time.

Melissa said...

Unfortunately, she probably *won't* know better for long. Old habits die hard, particularly driving habits. Yeah, she may watch herself for a short while, but unless she causes, or is involved in, a "real" accident she's not likely to make any permanent improvements.

Melissa said...

p.s.--still, good on ya! :)

hsempl said...

You go, cap'n safety!!

Orion said...

You are my hero as always!