With eight inches of snow on the ground, and more to come in a few days, it’s not very likely that my bicycle wheels will be on the road anytime soon. That makes me sad even though I can still ride indoors on my trainer.
Riding indoors is safe, but not much fun. True, no one has ever been hit by a car riding a bicycle in their basement, but the view is not the same. My basement, for example, lacks blue skies, green trees, flowing rivers and shimmering lakes. That is why I ride on the road where, yes, I was once struck by a car.
I was heading into an intersection and had the green light. There was a car coming toward me on the other side of the road. The driver decided to ignore her red light and made a left just as I was pedaling through the intersection. Contact was inevitable. It hurt.
Question # 1 to myself: Did my life pass before my eyes? The entire accident took less than ten seconds. Ten seconds couldn’t possibly encapsulate a lifetime. Plus, I wasn’t thinking about me. My instinct was to save the bike, not the rider. If I had any thoughts at all, it was how much I would miss my bike – my early morning rides – my sunset rides – my sneak out of the house rides, each time feeling like I was a kid again.
Question # 2 to myself: Was I afraid? There was absolutely no time for fear. Save the bike, that was my foremost concern although I failed to do so.
Question # 3 to myself: And then what happened?
The driver of the car was an elderly woman. She got out of the car and asked me if I was okay. I was bruised, but fine. She didn’t ask about the bike. “Lady, you wrecked my bike. Don’t you care?”
“I didn’t see you,” she said.
To which I said, “I was in the middle of the road. I’m six feet tall, and my shirt is fluorescent green. Not seeing me is not an excuse for hitting me with your car.”
“But I didn’t see you,” she said again as if I was some sort of stealth rider, moving so fast that I was undetectable by her radar.
Question # 4 to myself: And how did that make me feel? At first, I was very mad, but then the lady said, “I’m glad you’re okay.” That made me feel a little better until she said, “Your bike doesn’t look so bad,” and that, of course, put me over the edge.
I said, “My bike is a complete loss,” and I showed her the broken wheel and the crushed fork and continued, “It’s a really expensive bike.” She asked me how much and I told her.
“Oh,” she said, “That’s a lot. It really cost that much?”
Yes! Really! And the police arrived, and they talked to me, and they talked to her, and they gave her a ticket and I stopped being angry. Justice had been served. And for reasons I don’t fully understand (perhaps a subconscious celebration of the continuation of my life) I went from angry to invincible.
I called my wife. “Where are you?” I asked.
“I’m just leaving work,” she said. “Why?”
“I need a rescue,” I said. In the many years I’ve been riding, my wife has rescued me four times: twice for broken spokes, once in a thunderstorm and once when I tore open a tire after running over a large metal object. I think it was a screw.
“Paula,” I said, sounding a little giddy, as if I was skipping through a field of poppies, “I was just hit by a car, but I am fine.”
“What happened? Are you sure you’re alright,” she asked in a tone that was the antithesis of my giddiness. “I’m good. I really am. But the bike was totaled.” As I was telling her the story, I could hear the excitement growing in my voice. I was the improbable survivor of that which so many cyclists fear. Yes, I lost my bike, but my legs, my arms, my back, my neck, my head, and the little appendages on my hands that I use to control my now wrecked bicycle were in perfect working condition.
Soon, my invincibility evolved into super-hero status. I couldn’t shut up.
Question #5 to myself: What would it take to shut me up? The police left. The old woman drove away. I loaded my bike into Paula’s car and we headed home. “You know that this means?” I rhetorically put to Paula.
“You’re going to buy a new bike,” she said.
“Besides that; that’s obvious,” I blurted.
“Alright,” she said, sounding exasperated and confused by the exuberance in my voice.
“It means I’m indestructible,” I said with absolute glee.
She looked at me like I needed to be committed – a bit worried – a bit scared. “You’re going through shock,” she said. “I think you’ll live, but you really sound crazy. You could have been killed.”
“But I wasn’t!” I shouted back at her. “I swear to God, I have never felt better. Car hits man, man wins. I AM THE MAN!”
Last question to myself: What will it take to humble The Man? The answer is obvious. The next car that hits me will have to finish the job. The Man will have to die. Either that or put me in an isolation tank where human contact is impossible. If not, I’m afraid the story may grow, if only to satisfy my own creative nature.
“You got hit by a truck?” said the stranger.
“Yeah, a sixteen-wheeler that burst into flames on contact,” I told him.
“And you’re okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine. But the driver fainted and I had to pull him out of the fire and give him CPR,” I said.
“That’s amazing!” said the stranger.
“Yes, I am,” I proudly replied.
It’s just a story, right? And not so bad when one thinks what it could have been. So, now, when I meet someone new, I say, “Hello. My name is the guy who got hit by a car while riding his bike and walked away.” But you can just call me The Man (who sometimes rides in his basement).
Richard Reiss’ writing has appeared in the New York Times, Newark Star-Ledger, The Literary Review, as well as the anthologies, Upstart Crows II: True Stories, and Modern Love: 50 True and Extraordinary Tales of Desire, Deceit, and Devotion. He is the author of Desperate Love: A Father’s Memoir, published by Serving House Books. He can be reached at email@example.com.