Driving Around Too Much Can Ruin A Good Time

It's not that I don't know how to drive, or never drive, but after growing up in a place known for its car culture (lifestyle, not economy), I am quite happy to live in a place where I don't have to own a car. I like not having to worry about where to park a car. I like not having to bother with gas, insurance, maintenance, bumper stickers and whatever else you need to make a car run. I think the mass transit system in this city is a gift.

Indeed, when it comes to the automobile, I generally skew more toward Devoto than DeSoto, but I certainly don't disdain cars; indeed, some of our best friends even own cars, which is how we came into the custody of one — an American one, a blue one, from late last millennium.

Our friends were on sabbatical during the spring semester, so they offered it to us to use in their absence. Jen was happy to borrow the car; she's been wanting one for a long time; I think she should learn how to drive first. Ever since I sold my own car 12 years ago, I've resisted getting another, mostly for the reasons listed above, but I admit, it has been fun and useful to have it: We've been able to visit places we can't easily get to, for example, and buying 36-packs of Banquet is easy with a hatchback.

And then we hit that fucking kid on the bike.

Of course I'm being glib; what actually happened is that this fucking kid darted out from between two parked cars in the middle of the block and we hit him with the front bumper, sending his bike one way and him the other. It happened so fast that I could barely slow down, not that I was going that fast to begin with. It reminded me of what people talk about when they hit deer crossing the road. I don't know what he was in such a hurry to do; perhaps see Beyonce redefine "documentary"? Not sure . . .

The "processing" of hitting a biker goes a little like this: 1) Was it my fault? 2) If it wasn't, then it's his own fucking Goddamn fault for being such a fool bike rider; 3) Get on with life. It's interesting you can do this, but you can; it's like yoga for your conscience; the whole "process" took under ten seconds.

I stopped the car in the middle of the street and Goober immediately called 911. A crowd gathered around the kid, who lay on his back in the middle of the street, wailing, his shoe popped off next to him and his bicycle about thirty feet away. A lady ran to him, announcing she was an EMT. A friend of his also ran to him, announcing that the young man was a nigger who should stay awake.

"Stay still," the woman said, stabilizing the young man's head (or doing something like that; I tried not to look).

"Stay awake, nigger!" the friend yelled at the bicyclist.

Around this time, a helpful citizen (read: hipster scum) ran up — his back to Goober and myself — and began frantically asking bystanders if they witnessed the event. It took us a day or two to realize what he was doing — Why not ask us? We saw everything! — but I assume he saw a mangled bicycle and moaning kid sprawled out on the pavement and assumed that the onus would be on him to order yet another white bicycle.

Satisfied that the olive-complected young man could quickly return to delivering mediocre Thai food, Douchyclist left on the Janette Sadik-Khan he rode in on, along with most of the other people who had assembled, especially once the EMTs arrived and scooped up the kid to treat him in the truck. Eventually a police cruiser rolled up and two officers ambled out of the car.

"Nigger was speeding," the one kid helpfully pointed out to the police officer. Actually, I'm making that up, because he didn't in fact use the N-word when addressing the African-American officer, though he did suggest we were speeding.

"If he was speeding your friend would be dead," the officer intoned. The young man didn't stick around much longer.

The cops asked us what had happened, then disappeared to question the kid in the back of the ambulance.

While we were waiting, a lady walked up to ask what the kid looked like who got hit; her daughter hangs out on that corner and those kids did stupid stuff.

The cops retired to their cruiser and suddenly it was just us waiting on the street. So I killed a kid? It wasn't my fault. Goober said I seemed to be handling this well.

Key Food, 42-15 30th Avenue, Astoria, Queens, February 16, 2013

One of the EMTs eventually emerged from the truck. He walked over to us. "Which one of you is the driver?"

I raised my hand. He walked up to me. His eyes looked gentle, his face slightly grizzled.

"Because that kid," he continued before opening his eyes wider to unleash the kicker, "He died."

"What?" I asked, not because I didn't hear him but rather because in American English "What?" is shorthand for something along the lines of, "I don't fucking believe what you just said, and you have to repeat it just so I can have a little more time to take it all in."

"No," he quickly recovered, "I'm just kidding around with you — I'm sorry."

I assured him that this was in fact probably one of the funniest fucking moments of my entire life.

"He's fine; kids, they're springy," he added, "They're meant to be hit around a little."

"Thanks?" I sort of meekly offered.

Meanwhile, the police were finishing the paperwork, and motioned for us to get out of the street. We pulled over and waited a little while longer. The officer returned my license and the car's registration and said we were free to go. The whole thing lasted maybe twenty minutes total. It was nothing. Other than a mangled bike, the kid appeared to be fine. Nothing happened to the car.

We went right home and put Mr. Baby to bed and tuned into the Beyonce "documentary." Questions about the narrator's inherent unreliability aside, it was probably the only time on HBO I'd seen anyone unironically discuss their belief in God. We drank a cocktail.

We told our friends about the accident — Jen was nervous enough that she typed "notes" for me to use — and assured them that there was nothing we could have done, the kid was apparently OK and not dead, and as we clearly — clearly! — weren't at fault there didn't seem to be any issue that could come up about it. All of which was fine, they assured us — just go get the police report.

Do you know what you have to do to get a police report? It costs ten dollars. Payable via money order. This particular accident report was one page (double sided). Ten dollars. It took the clerk 45 seconds to locate and make the photocopy. Ten dollars. Ten dollars. Ten dollars.

Police Report

And, to be fair, it was kind of interesting to Google Stalk the kid. I think (though I'm not sure) that I found a page with some biographical details about him. He's a church-going kid who went to the middle school Albert Shanker taught at (although his Wikipedia page doesn't confirm that — Shanker's page, not the child's). I suppose it humanized him slightly more, though I still don't understand what the fuck he was thinking (the kid, not Shanker).

About two months later my friend said that his insurance had contacted him about an accident his car was involved in. We speculated what that could possibly be about. That day an adjuster called to interview me. There's a headiness you get when you know that you can answer questions that completely truthfully. I relished this interview. I contextualized. I added details. I doubled back in case anything was somehow unclear.

A few days later another adjuster came out to look at the car. Then my friend let us know the upshot: His insurance would be paying half of the kid's hospital bills; the adjuster didn't think their premium would go up. And now you can see why the system is that fucked.

In no particular order, here's some of what I consider to be total fucking bullshit: 1) You — without lights or a helmet — ride your bike out into the street in the middle of the block and get hit by a car and your insurance only splits the difference with the insurance attached to the car that hit you; 2) Although you're as much of a moving vehicle as a car, you don't get ticketed for breaking about six traffic laws at once; 3) (This is in the form of a rhetorical statement) If Moron dickhead fuckface bicyclists demand half the roadway, they should get half the tickets, and not ticketing moron dickhead bicyclists only exacerbates a shitty situation; 4) (This is a vague statement, only somewhat germane to the above) One more fucking reason Michael Fucking Bloomberg is a total piece of shit; 5) (This is just pure ranting) I will never understand why it's somehow OK to shut down the Gowanus Fucking Expressway for a bike ride — have you seen what five miles of Sunday traffic backed up to Queens looks like? — touting the event's supposed "eco-friendliness" is ironic at best; they don't even do this for the marathon.

In the spirit of Beyonce, a prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept a fucking asinine insurance industry which I cannot change, the "courage" and cluelessness to feel free to rant about stupid shit, and wisdom to understand that we're all kind of fucking bonehead idiots.

Posted: May 16th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Shiftless When Idle | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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