IT'S A LITTLE AFTER 5 PM. I've just left work and headed down 6th Street towards Highway 20 and home. I have several street options but choose 6th because it is much less traveled, has fewer traffic lights and because vintage railroad tracks, laid in the center of the street, separate me from the oncoming traffic. It's a quiet street. Usually.
My first stop is Jefferson. Oncoming traffic has the right of away and in both directions, 6th must yield to it. I see a car about a block away but because its speed limit is 25, I know I have time to jut across.
As I hit the gas petal I hear a thud and look to my right. A bicyclist is on the pavement and his bent bike hovers precariously over him. He struggles to get up while I fight the daze that's come over me and pull my car across the street to get it out of the way. I kill the engine letting up on the clutch too soon but it doesn't matter.
I'm out of the car as the bicyclist, a young man, bike in tow, hobbles over to the curb beside me.
"I'm so sorry. Oh my gosh, I didn't see you. Are you okay?"
"My leg," he says pointing down. He is young, probably a college student, I surmise. It's a college town after all, and bicyclists and pedestrians are about as common as cars.
"How can I help you? Should I call 911?"
"No. I'm okay. I'm going to call my friend." He sets the bike down and fumbles for his phone.
"I'll get my contact information, okay?" I say, needing permission to leave him for a second.
Back at the car, I grab my purse and my business card which isn't really a business card but I like to pretend. It has my blogs' URLs and a cute garden-themed drawing in pink and green. It also has my email address.
"I'll give you my work number too, okay? Gosh I wish I had some first aid supplies in my car," I say trying to remember my work number and in response to his blood-smeared leg.
"It's not that bad." He downplays his injury and I'm grateful that he's not an asshole.
"I'm so sorry. I didn't see you. I was watching for that car and thought I had enough time..."
"I didn't see you either. I was in the oncoming lane," he says pointing, "and I also thought I had enough time to get past that car."
Having assumed it was my fault because I hit him and because habitually my first response is to assume fault, I realize that we were both at the stop sign and technically I had the right of way since I was going straight and he was turning left. But I keep my thoughts to myself. I don't want to start an argument. I'm still a little dazed. But I feel slightly better now.
I head for home. The insurance adjuster, Karen, is nice and awards him his just due, enough to buy a new bike.
It's all history now but still fresh enough in my mind that I'm a little jumpy when I see bicyclists. I'm grateful that this lesson in the classroom of life didn't have dire consequences.
I'm getting older and hopefully a little smarter.