My Scariest Accident

I didn’t remember going over the car’s hood, but I knew where I was and how I got there.

I was lying on my back and strangers were looking down at me. Somebody said, “You’ve been in an accident — don’t move. Does anything hurt?”

I remembered my front tire touching the right side of a Buick’s front bumper and thinking: This is it. It’s been a good life.

But then I realized the full coverage helmet I’d been wearing, its chin strap securely buckled, was not on me. “Who took my helmet off me?” I demanded. “I sure hope I’m not paralyzed because some untrained idiot moved my broken neck!” My consciousness turned off again before I could wiggle my toes.

*      *      *

I had recently gotten a new job in Gardena, but still lived in Long Beach. That meant I needed to commute on freeways, so I had started driving the car instead of riding the Kawasaki. That evening I had decided to take a short ride after supper to keep the bike’s internals clean and lubricated and the battery charged, but mostly because I missed riding it. I had only ridden a few miles down PCH and back towards home.

I’d crossed Bellflower and was almost at 7th Street, in the “Iron Triangle,” when I noticed a car coming the opposite direction wiggle. He moved into the left turn lane, I thought, and he’s coming too fast — he isn’t going to stop.

No problem, I told myself. My light had just turned green when I was about 50 yards from it. There’s nobody near me so I’ll just pull into the left lane and go behind him. I was used to dealing with car drivers who didn’t signal and ignored red lights.

Sure enough, he began his turn. That’s when I saw the middle-aged woman in the passenger seat and read her lips —  “STOP!” — which the driver did.

Great, I thought, and there are other cars coming this way. If I swerve behind him, I’ll hit them head-on. I can’t stop. I need to swerve and cross in front of him. I was already braking and I almost made it.

*      *      *

The E.R. found no broken bones or serious trauma, so I was released with the worst headache that lasted for days and the inability to tilt my head without dizziness. The front of my helmet was badly scratched, but I still had my face. After talking with my dentist and my chiropractor, we deduced that my temporo-mandibular nerve had been stressed by my helmet strap and a massage to that area hurt, but cured it almost immediately.

The Buick driver and his wife had claimed that I had run a red light, but I found a witness, a CSULB student, who backed up my allegation that he had run the red left turn arrow and was at fault.

His insurance bought me a used second car and claimed my totaled Kawasaki. I sold my BMW show-bike to remove temptation and didn’t ride again for 17 years.

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