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Dent of ManOn my way to have dinner before my improv show last night, I took my usual route over the hill from Burbank into Hollywood. From Highland, I turned onto Franklin. Usually, I get into the right-hand lane, since the left-hand lane is often taken up with stopped cars trying to turn left. I ended up in the left lane instead. Less than a block from making the turn, I did, in fact, see the two SUVs ahead of me in my lane stopping. I made a quick lane change to the right to avoid this. Just as I finished the change, a guy appeared from behind the first stopped car. “What is he doing there?” I thought. Then I hit my brakes, but I don’t remember: Was there squealing? Did I stomp on the brakes, or just press with controlled firmness?

I watched the man’s face. He watched me through his glasses. He was young, clean-cut, wearing a backpack. “I’m going to hit a person,” I thought. I was resigned immediately to this fact. I continued to watch him, as he did me. He didn’t run or jump back. I didn’t swerve. I didn’t yell. I don’t think I did, anyway.

Did my brakes squeal? My eyes felt wide. I just made a swift lane change, it’s my fault. Why was this guy here? Didn’t he bother to look? It’s his fault. What was he doing there?

I waited to see what would happen. How fast was I going? Not speeding, definitely. Jump out of the way or something…

It was not a hard crunch or any kind of bang, and my car didn’t lurch. It was like hitting a sack. The guy rolled up the front of my car, onto my hood, sideways, fetal. Did he roll off the car? No, I think he stepped. He was up immediately.

I did not panic, and I did not feel uneasy. I felt stupid and resigned. He looked at me with the same look he had before I hit him. As I pulled my car off Franklin to a small side street, he was limping. I stopped on the left curb and turned on my hazards. Before I got out of the car, I took a half-second to pause my iPod, which was playing a duet. Annie and Warbucks had just been cheerfully singing, “Hamlet needed his mother. Woolworth needed his shop. Orville needed his brother, or else… he’d go… KER-PLOP!” It was embarrassing enough I’d hit this guy; I had to pause the treacle.

“I’m so sorry! Are you okay?” “I think I am, yes,” he said with a slight accent. European something. “Are you sure?” “Yes.” He touched himself on the legs, wiggled around. Repeat that exchange few times, and the wiggling. I looked at my hood, where a long, white mark was. I didn’t see the dent until later that night. “Are you sure? I think I hit you pretty hard. I don’t know what to do.” I was very sorry, I did not see him coming from behind the SUV. He was very sorry, he saw the cars stopping and thought he was okay. “Are you sure you’re not hurt? I don’t want to leave you hurt.” How can anyone be sure of something like that on the spot? Was I kidding? “Thank you for even stopping. That was very good of you,” he said.

I should give him my card, I thought. But no, I shouldn’t. I should be happy this wasn’t worse. What if he’s one of those people who will sue me? I shouldn’t give him my card. No, I should. Give him my card. It was a choice between paranoia and the correct thing to do.

I didn’t give him my card. All I did was awkwardly shake his hand. He turned and walked up the hilly side street as I sat for a minute in my car, taking a moment to relax as the yellow hazard lights reflected off the world. He seemed to be walking fine. No limp. Yes, he must be okay. Maybe.

Continuing on my drive (“Annie, Annie, Annie, look what you’ve done for us!”), I was not as shaken as I thought I should have been. I was pensive over how simply and quickly the accident had taken place. They all do, though. But I hit a person. Shouldn’t I be shaking? Nervous? Worried? Shouldn’t I be slowing down?

The guy could still find me and sue me, I suppose, even if he’s not hurt. I don’t think he will. His manner was antithetical to such action. But how can anyone be sure of something like that on the spot? That I may have hurt him more than I believe I did is what gives me pause.

I feel badly that I did not give him my card. I feel worse about that than about hitting him. Hitting him was not a choice. I had no choice. He was there and I was there and neither of us could have done anything. The only real thing I could have done was be brave and give him my card. I found I was being let off the hook, though, so I took the opportunity. I should have been a better person and made sure he had a way to contact me in case he found I’d injured him.

Sometimes I’m not as decent a person as I want or try to be, and that’s more distressing than the accident itself.

13 Comments

SSneaky Expounded Thusly:

I am truly sorry you had to experience this. It’s amazing how introspection is almost invariably painful. It is our resolve to improve ourselves that makes us Human. Revel in the anguish as it changes your being. Then you will be whole.

Friday, October 14th, 2005 • 3:31pm • Permalink

Robb Expounded Thusly:

Yeah, you definitely should have gotten his name and probably the license plate numbers of a few witnesses (for your own protection). But, in reality, you probably didn’t hit him very hard at all. Your reaction to his presence was probably better than you realize. It still sucks though. The remarkable thing is…

You have cards?! That’s so professional and grown up! I just write my name on old reciepts or something. You’re way cool.

Saturday, October 15th, 2005 • 8:27am • Permalink

Steve Expounded Thusly:

“Revel in the anguish!” (Exclamation point added for emphasis) That’s such a phrase! Having just seen Capote, I understand reveling in anguish. Introspection is hard. And you have to keep at it all your life.

As for Robb’s suggestion, yes, I should have gotten his info, too. But the thing about the witnesses… there were none! Not a single person stopped. We were the only two there. Everyone else must have split. That’s L.A. for you.

I saw the immediate aftermath of a horrible accident in the Sepulveda pass a few weeks ago. While it looked like no one was hurt, the cars were shockingly damaged, and a telephone pole had even been brought down, the cable laying across Sepulveda like a trip wire. The car that I deemed had been the cause of the entire drama was missing its bumper and a front wheel, among other smaller parts.

As I inched past the scene (not because I was lookie-looing, but because traffic was understandably mucked up), a woman dressed in horrible L.A. attire was hurrying back and forth between her car and one of the damaged ones. She was in some kind of high-heeled shoe-wear, and that, combined with her short skirt and hurried manner, made her look like a woozy beach bird.

When she had returned from her car to the damaged one, I heard her say, “Here’s my info. Call me if you need to. I saw it all. But I have to go.” And off she climp-climped back to her car to take off for what was, judging by her attire, a very swanky event. (She was heading toward the Valley, in case that means anything to you.) I expected her to pause and peck at the ground for a sand flea.

It at first made me laugh because I thought that someone could be bleeding in the street and she’d toss her card down and say, “I’ll be a witness, if you live, but I really have to get to my pole-dancing competition! I can’t be disqualified for tardiness again this year!”

I realized, though, that she had stopped and offered to be of help, so that was she did her duty. In my case, considering at least two cars must have seen me hit that guy, not a one pulled over. Maybe this is okay.

Oh, and I do have cards. Disney is kind enough to provide me with them. It will remove some of the grown-up sheen from my image when I tell you I use them almost exclusively for entering free lunch drawings at restaurants.

Saturday, October 15th, 2005 • 7:08pm • Permalink

Darren Expounded Thusly:

Steve,

I was hit crossing Voksalnaya Magistral across from my office last spring. Not serious – no limping. But I was really angry because the woman that was driving definitely saw me and I was sure she would stop. I was crossing on one of those areas with the white zebra marks painted on the road. We also had eye contact. But the @#$!% just hit me! – after slowing down to a speed that would do no horrible damage.

Unfortunately, being foreign I was not confident or knowledgeable enough to sue the @#$!%. But I thought seriously about having my bodyguard meet her in a dark alley. In any case, Russia is not known for settlements in court and most of these issues are resolved on the spot. I don’t know what part of Europe your friend is from, but I imagine the guy was happy to have resolution with out having to pursue something in a foreign court.

Are you sleeping well?

Monday, October 17th, 2005 • 4:02am • Permalink

Steve Expounded Thusly:

Wow, see the things we miss in your life when we don’t talk? I’m glad you’re here!

One point for him: He was crossing at an intersection. One point for me: There was not a crosswalk, like the one a block further up.

You know, it was simply what it was. So glad it was not horrifyingly major. And for you, I’m glad it was not worse! We all know what to do in the States… SUE! But in a foregn land, what’s the protocol? (Though you’ve been there for a decade now, haven’t you?)

One last, useless point: Did you put the @#$!% there, or do I have some kind of filter accidentally turned on? Let’s test: bitch whore fuck

Monday, October 17th, 2005 • 11:13am • Permalink

Steve Expounded Thusly:

No, profanity is 100% green-lit! Good!

Monday, October 17th, 2005 • 11:13am • Permalink

Mom Expounded Thusly:

So sorry you had to experience that. Do you remember me telling the tale of the time when I was 17 and hit a little 3 year old boy? He was blocks from his home and simply ran out in the street in front of me. I hit him and he rolled down the side of the street. I will forever relive that scene in my mind and it happened 42 years ago!! He was taken by ambulance to the ER, checked and released. He had no injuries other than scrapes and bruises. There were numerous witnesses who told the investigating cop that it was not my fault and I was not ticketed. In today’s world – the parents would be accused of child endangerment because the neighbors said the little guy was always roaming the neighborhood – at 3 years of age! You are so fortunate that the fellow was not injured, Steve. Do not beat yourself up over the incident. You will relive the scene often enough in your mind, but learn from it (what, I don’t know? Drive more defensively? Drive slower? Who knows.) Life can change in one instance.

Monday, October 17th, 2005 • 7:19pm • Permalink

SSneaky Expounded Thusly:

That’s funny, Mom Lekowicz! About 24 years ago, when I was three, I was with my brother hunting lizards far away from home. He crossed the street and then told me not to cross. I don’t remember everything, of course, but they say I ran out right into the way of a car.

Luckily after bouncing off the ground, etc, my head came to rest one inch from being crushed by the back tire. They got an ambulance, rushed me to ER, but that’s about it. The gravel in my scalp was fun for them to pick out, but nothing else was wrong.

Imagine how much money my parents could have recieved if that were today and it happened in California!!

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005 • 9:01am • Permalink

Shhheeester Expounded Thusly:

I don’t have any scary getting runover stories!… but do have the knowlege of knowing you my WHOLE life and you are an AMAZING person who always tries to do the right thing. I have seen it everytime I spend time with you and that has always been a character trait I have admired in you! (no joke!) Your feelings of guilt and confusion are understandable, but as human beings in sudden stressful situations our actions are unpredictable and it is easy look back and think how we could have handled it differently….I hope you find peace with this! I love you! Sis.

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005 • 10:10am • Permalink

Steve Expounded Thusly:

While Mr. SSneaky (I’ve been hoping the SS reference is in no way Nazistic) may be joking, I am not when I say I’m in a rotten mood toady! But hearing the banter on this post is sooting. And sis, thank you so much for saying that. First, I’m happy you read it, and second, I’m happy you have had something to look up to me on. I am your big brother, after all, and what good would I be if I had nothing for you to look up to? I don’t know what I’m saying because I’m tired, sick, hngry, and GRUMPY! But thanks, sis. I love you, too.

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005 • 11:35am • Permalink

SSneaky Expounded Thusly:

Not go off topic, SS is Super Sport (I have an ’96 Impala SS) and SSNEAKY is my license place/game handle/etc. And no, I wasn’t joking about being hit.

But I must agree with your sister. You are a very respectable person and are constantly looking out for others. That doesn’t mean you let yourself get walked upon, that just means that you are cognizant of other’s and their needs.

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005 • 4:17pm • Permalink

Wide-Eyed Steve Expounded Thusly:

All this very nice support is unexpected. Thanks. I can’t really say anything without sounding fatuous. But thanks very much.

Thursday, October 20th, 2005 • 9:23am • Permalink

The Wren Forum » The God of Lunacy Strikes Again! Expounded Thusly:

[...] The fire from the incident is gone now, but the lingering question that still befuddles me is this: Where do these people come from? I really don’t know. If you drive within feet of a pedestrian crossing the street and they smack your car, you flinch and realize that, yes, you were wrong just then. I tried to do the right thing when I hit that guy on Franklin. Even though I should have given him my contact info but didn’t, I didn’t claim to be right. I didn’t threaten to beat him up for my hitting him. [...]

Monday, July 17th, 2006 • 10:22pm • Permalink • This is a Pingback

 

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