It is 11:30 on a Monday night and I just returned from a 17-mile run with my friend Joe. Exhausted and sore, all I want is to go to bed. I scarf down 3 pieces of pizza and an overly large piece of ice cream cake (the diet of champions) and wave on my way out the door. The three minute walk to my car allows me to ponder all of the potential excuses I could use to not show up to work tomorrow or at least show up a little late. I have never used one of these excuses and often even come to work sick, but it gives me some sort of bizarre comfort to at least consider my options.
I gingerly lower myself into my car and turn the key in the ignition. Loud music jolts me awake as I realized that I left the radio on way too loud. I laugh, switch to a mellower CD (Poetry & Airplanes by Teitur) and begin the 25 minute drive home.
About halfway home I am cursing at the Chicago engineers who chose to align the traffic lights in a way that seems to make you hit every red light. I am just starting to slow down for another red light when my fortunes turn. The light turns green. I smirk as I pass the other cars that are just beginning to accelerate. I never saw them.
A couple of bikers had seen the light turn red and hoped they could rush through before any cars got going. They decided to do this across four lanes of traffic, wearing all black, without helmets. I hit the 18 year-old man going 25-30 MPH without even touching the brake. His body crashed through my windshield, which promptly made me slam on the brakes and watch as he rolled back off the car and into the street. I thought I had killed him.
I grabbed my phone and rushed out of the car as I was dialing 911. The guy was already standing up and walking around. In shock, I screamed, “Are you alright? You can’t be alright. You shouldn’t be walking. How are you walking?” He saw my phone and quickly told me not to call the cops. He said he was fine. I repeated, “You can’t be alright. I hit you at 30. How are you alright?” A couple other people were getting on their phones to call the police, but he quickly told them all that he was fine. “Don’t call the cops. I don’t have insurance, I can’t afford it.”
I guess this was the end of some people’s courtesy towards injured people as a female biker began to honk and yell, “come on, he’s fine. Let’s move it!”
I looked a twenty feet down the road, the guys left shoe. Thirty feet, his right shoe. Fifty feet, an old Schwinn bicycle that was now shaped like a Z.
I offered to give him a ride, but he said he was fine. I gave him my card and told him how to reach me, but he just kept standing there saying he was fine. Finally we parted ways, both stunned at what had just happened. I never even got his name. I called my mom to tell her what had happened and to confirm all of her phobias about vehicle safety. Luckily she had less trust in human nature and told me to immediately call the police and file a police report. I was foolish enough to believe him when he said that it was all his fault and that he was fine.
Now I am standing in the police station at 2am in the morning with a very solid reason for why I will be coming into the office late tomorrow morning. I file a police report and drive my car home. One hand on the steering wheel and the other propped and ready to catch the windshield that was hovering over the passenger side seat.
The next day I left arrived at work 2 hours late and left two hours early in order to take my car into the shop. I thought that the car had won the crash and that only my windshield was damaged. Evidently the formula you use when accessing the cost to fix dents and scratches is “your best guess” multiplied by 10. The estimate came at $2,700 with an 8-10 day turn around with a $1,000 deductible. All of a sudden, my empathy toward this poor biker and his girlfriend turned into anger. Was saving three minutes of his time waiting at a light really worth $1,000 of my money (not to mention higher insurance rates)? The worst of it was that since I didn’t have his information, I was stuck with the bill.
The next day at lunch, I’m telling this story to my coworkers when my phone rings. It is the guy I hit on the bike. Praise God! He’s ok. He then begins to ask me if my insurance would cover his medical bills. At this point, I am freaking out that he is going to sue me for some injury and that he and his girlfriend will make up a story about what actually happened. What would I be able to do? I did not get information for any witnesses and the police never came to the scene.
I called my insurance company immediately and told them the whole story. They assured me that it was his fault and that I was not responsible, but that still did not calm the nerves. Luckily, the guy was honest and admitted that it was his fault so it doesn’t appear that I am going to get sued. Unfortunately, he is uninsured and broke, which means that I am still stuck with the $1,000 deductible and have no form of transportation for the next two weeks.