Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter Miracle: Nearly Killed by Frank Costanza

He should feel lucky.  Lucky that it wasn’t someone who didn’t grow up with the high score on Frogger, someone new to cycling out for their first sunny sixty degree ride after months of dreadful Cincinnati weather, someone without years of experience deftly picking their way through packs of drunken Chicagoans at Milwaukee’s Summerfest, someone who hasn’t been racing and riding long enough to count a Breezer Thunder among the bikes in the man cave, someone who didn’t just get back from a week of mountain descending in Georgia, someone who doesn’t burn a Sven Nys Prayer Candle.  It would’ve been different then, bloody limbless Walking Dead different I’m sure. 

There would’ve been Easter leftovers all over the car and shrieks and screams and a ceremonial reading of the RoadID and sirens and backboards and stuffed animals knocked off the rear window shelf and endless calls to the geniuses in medical billing departments and physical therapy and lawsuits and insurance premiums that would make a wee-wee pig choke on a gecko.  Instead, up in the air was the back of my Italian hand and a shout, “What are you trying to F-ing kill me!?” 

I almost got hit by a car yesterday.  Of course he wasn’t trying to kill me.  Of course I couldn’t think of anything more clever to say like, “didn’t they teach you to love thy neighbor in church this morning?”  However, he should feel lucky it wasn’t someone else.  It would’ve been much more than a close call and a blog full of theatrical language and long sentences strung together with the word “and.”

Please don’t take this as being cocky.  If you know me, I’m not one to brag and I don’t make wiener jokes.  I still have a lot to learn on a bike, like being able to farmer blow my nose.  I simply had control.  My hands, fingers wrapped around the bars, gripped the drops.  Hips slightly back, my thighs held the saddle.  Sorry if that sounded too 50 Shades of Grey for you.  Erie Avenue in Cincinnati is a very popular thoroughfare for cyclists, a main road taking riders east from the city to the rolling hills and scenic Little Miami River Valley.  The bike-lane header photo on the main page of this blog is from Erie Avenue.  It’s about a 1.5 mile hill.  I was headed down.  The light was green.    

There was a woman with light reddish-brown curly hair in the passenger seat.  With thinning unkempt hair, he was driving a green older model boxy Dodge sedan.  So yeah, a slightly younger version of Mr. and Mrs. Costanza were about to run me down sit-com style in a car very similar to one on Seinfeld.  Or, at least that’s what it appeared to me in the span of less than 3 seconds and an ish-timated speed of 28-ish mph. 

Across from the bar and bistro, I was about to pass the dry cleaner on the right.  It could’ve been the sunshine or my sunglasses, but the Costanza car windows seemed tinted yellow.   I’m guessing he didn’t see me or misjudged my speed.  Either way, his speed never changed as he turned left in front of me.  Recalling pretty much everything aside from whether or not there was a hula girl on the dash, I don’t remember seeing a blinker.

Very Similar to Kramer's Ford LTD
It’s amazing how fast the brain and body work together, like they’re connected with nerves or something.  Immediately, at the speed Mr. Costanza started his turn, I knew I wasn’t going to eek past on my current line.  I like to read the foll-oh-ing in a slow-mo-shun-voice and use robot hand gestures.  I threw my weight back and squeezed the brake levers, slowing as fast as possible.  I remember focusing quickly, then looking away from, his shiny green chrome trimmed wheel well and passenger side quarter panel, the point of impact I later judged.  Still too fast to cut a quick hard right turn, I eased to the right, aiming roughly for the far corner of the intersection, a wheel chair curb ramp, between him and a car on the cross street stopped at the light. 

It still didn’t look good, like Elaine dancing.  I threw the bike harder right and grabbed more brake.  The rear end kicked left toward his car, slightly skidding.  Looking back, the change of direction maybe bought me a fraction of a second and/or caught his attention.  Mr. Costanza slammed on the brakes.   I corrected and, with a few feet to spare on either side, skated through the gap untouched and on the main road.  I didn’t need to exit via the wheel chair ramp.  It was real and spectacular.

I was calm and collected until I was safe.  That’s when I looked back, the hand came up and the colorful Easter language came out.  With his window down, I know he saw and heard it, (so did the people in the black car stopped at the light) then they were gone out of sight up the side street.  I continued down the hill. 

I remember thinking I should be freaked out, but not a single goosebumb popped up.  The Garmin confirmed my heart rate wasn’t jacked.  In recollection, the incident seemed oddly calculated and clinical, like when soldiers train through a mock urban ambush on TV.  Shoot the pop-up bad guys, don’t shoot the kid.  With squirrels, trees, rocks, holes, other bikes, dogs, deer, and cars, I’ve been in situations like this dozens, if not a hundred times before.  I’ve been riding bikes long enough to have the confidence that I’ll save it, or at least do everything I can to save it, until I don’t.  For me, it wasn’t luck at all.

He’s lucky it wasn’t a less experienced rider, someone who freaks out in crowded elevator, a rider that may have panicked and slammed on the brakes and straight skidded into the car or tried to turn too abruptly and comically top-sided with too much speed.   He’s lucky I maintain my bike and brush it’s hair.  It has new cables and tires.  It’s routinely cleaned and lubed, including checking the brakes, tire pressure and scrubbing the rims of grit.  He’s lucky I treat parked cars and intersections with more respect than a skier slicing up gates on a Super-G downhill and had the sense to keep my speed in check on a busy descent where a rider could easily top 35mph.  He’s lucky I ride with my eyes up, take descents in the drops, always keep my fingers wrapped about the bars and saw his car long enough to describe his passenger’s uncanny resemblance to Mrs. Costanza before he saw me.  Oh Georgie!  As I write, I hope Frank’s sharing my thoughts, it’s a miracle he didn’t hit someone with his car on Easter Sunday.  


JeffC said...

Don't know what I'd do without my TBBBE. Seriously, glad you're ok!

Jason Monk said...

I've had the same thing happen with a mini-van, and it sounds like i reacted exactly the same way; slammed on brakes, skidding back tire to the left, veered slightly right. I'm glad you missed them too - it's such a common situation that it has it's own name. Called a 'Left Hook' in Traffic Skills 101 terms.