Look both ways

This morning I went for a run. In an effort to keep things interesting, I have a few routes that I like to take. I was on what I guess would be Route C, and there was this one section, two blocks long, where I had to cross over from one side of the street to the other.

It’s always a challenge going for runs in the city. You want to maintain some sort of a rhythm, but it’s kind of hard with traffic, with lights that don’t always synch up with what you’re doing, your pace, plus the other eight or so million people living in this city, some of them out, some of them on the same street that you are, everybody jockeying for space, trying to just go about life with as few collisions as possible.

I ran by the first corner but the light wasn’t on my side. About halfway down I noticed that the light up ahead was good to go. But I wasn’t going to make it all the way there in time to catch it. So I figured, OK, I’ll just cross right now, right in the middle of the street. I do it all the time. It’s New York. You cross when you have to cross.

Only, and I’ve heard of stuff like this happening to other people, but I ran into the street to find myself directly in the way of a bicycle delivery guy. There was no time to react. I just stepped in the street and found myself exactly in his path. He didn’t even have time to swerve, he just kind of shouted something, I think I shouted something, although I might not have, it’s kind of a blur.

Incredibly, I was able to maneuver my torso, like a matador taunting a charging bull, in such away that I made very minimal contact with the bike as he came at me from my left. I turned to the right to see everything play out. The bike kind of wobbled, and I thought, he’s going to fall, but then he managed to correct the imbalance. For about a quarter of a second, everything looked like it was about to be OK. But then whatever grip he tentatively regained slipped away again and he tumbled off and over the bike.

It wasn’t the worst crash in the world. It was a relatively low-speed affair, but still, I’ve fallen off of my bike plenty. He was probably a little banged up. And what about his bike? What about the delivery? I went up to the guy and started apologizing immediately, “I’m so sorry,” like that’s going to do anything.

I gave him my hand to pull him up but he just kept shouting something in what I’m assuming was Chinese, just a snap judgment based on the Chinese restaurant logo on his delivery vest. Through his gesturing, I figured that he was worried about his bike, it was one of those new electric models with an engine and everything. I pulled it up, steadied everything out, turned off the motor.

Then he just kept saying stuff in that different language. I was asking the basics, “Are you OK?” telling him I was sorry. He kind of looked through his merchandise, everything seemed to be salvageable. He pulled up his pant leg but there wasn’t any noticeable damage. We made eye contact and he just kind of kept muttering something before making a gesture with his arm, like don’t worry about it, get out of here.

And then he got back on his bike and took off. I felt really bad. I felt like I should have done something else. But what? What was to be done? All of these things flashed through my mind. About how I always complain about my job, about how I hate going to work. I tried putting myself in his place, delivering takeout on a bike in the cold in a country where I don’t even speak a single word of the language. And I get hit by a runner. And maybe my leg does hurt. Maybe I have to go back to the restaurant and get new food, and the boss will chew me out for poor bike riding skills. Maybe the restaurant owns the bike, maybe the owner is a real dick and makes me pay for any scratches or superficial damage.

Man, I just try to be a good guy, so it stings especially when I make a stupid careless mistake, one that has actual ramifications on somebody else. And I had no idea what I could have done differently, you know, expect for looking both ways or waiting to cross at a corner, or just having a clue about my surroundings, not stuck in my head, unaware of the rest of the world, all of these eight million people with whom I’m trying to peacefully coexist.

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