I saw a kid get hit by a car.
I was backing out of my driveway and saw two kids bombing down the hill behind me on bikes. I waited for them to pass, because they were flying.
They continued to cruise, down the middle of the street, and toward an intersection.
“They’re not going to stop,” I said to myself. They were careening right for a stop sign, without a logical sense of road-rules.
Inevitably and horribly, a pickup truck came through the intersection at the exact same time.
Everyone squealed their breaks, the bikes included, but it was too late – the kid got hit.
Luckily, he slammed into the driver-side door of the truck – and bounced off like a ragdoll.
My heart stopped. I had watched these kids travel the entire way down the hill, and like a slow-motion movie into the path of the truck.
The kid was lucky to not hit the front grill, or stuck under a wheel. His fate would have been worse.
As it was, everyone was visibly shaken – me included.
I ran out my car, dialing 911 in stride, and came to the kid’s aid.
He was young – maybe 10-years old – and crying like a maniac. His forearm was bleeding and scrapped with road-rash – but he was alive, so that’s all that mattered.
The ambulance came shortly, because this was inner-city Manchester, NH, and the fire department was a block away. We could hear the siren squeal immediately after I made the call.
The kid seemed fine, with no visible broken bones, but he had just splattered himself like a bug against a truck, so who knows what else he hurt.
The driver of the truck too, lost his mind. He stammered around and yelled, “Oh my God, oh my God.” He was useless and a complete mess. His truck was fine too, with just a tiny ding, but I’m sure that guy lived in therapy for a year, just to shake the feeling of hitting a kid.
I felt bad for him. I felt bad for everyone.
I was just thankful everyone was fine.
City – Woman
Another time, a random woman jumped in my car.
It was the same intersection where the kid nearly died.
I was coming home from work, and parked on the street.
I was messing with my phone for a minute (probably turning off a Taylor Swift album), as the passenger door swung open and a woman plopped herself in the seat.
“Oh, hello,” I said politely.
I wanted to tell her to scram, to get the hell out of my car, but I didn’t. There was something wrong with her, like she was sick, on drugs, and not mentally present.
I thought she might rob me.
“Can you take me to Charley’s?” She asked.
“Sure,” I said relieved. “Where does Charley live?”
“Over that way.”
Ok. Let’s go.
So I turned the car back on and headed two blocks north.
She sat patiently waiting, quiet, and fidgeting, like she had something to be nervous about. Perhaps she was afraid of me? I didn’t know.
But if she was going to try something funny – pull a gun or a knife or whatever – I was ready to ram my car into a telephone pole, all kamikaze like. She wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
Eventually she piped up with proper instructions and directed me where to turn. It wasn’t anywhere sketchy. It was a normal dude’s house, right on a major road.
She prepared to exit my car, and I was ready to be done with this questionable character.
“Are you done drinking that?” She asked. She looked at my half-finished bottle of orange Sunkist soda in my cup holder.
“I’m done with it,” I said smiling. “You can have it.” – But I wasn’t done with it. I love Sunkist!
She collected it in her hands like she was dying of thirst, and hadn’t drank anything in a week.
“Are you done with those too?” She asked, pointing at my pathetic collection of change.
“That’s yours. Take it,” I said, offering the paltry 87 cents.
“Ok, thanks,” she said, and finally got out of my car.
As soon as the door slammed closed, I burned rubber, and peeled out of there as fast as I could.
City – Stranger
On the short drive home, I shook my head in disbelief. What had just happened?
Who jumps into a stranger’s car like that and demands a ride. Was she on drugs?
The only thing I could figure, was she had been walking to Charley’s house already, and flagged me down like a hitchhiker as I passed.
Then when I pulled to a stop in front of my house, she figured I had listened to her request.
But she must have been thinking, “Who is this dude who picks up random women in the street?”
She probably thought I was a creep.
City – Safe
Now that I’m years past these events, I’m far from the city too. I’m living in my townhouse, out in the suburbs. And it feels safe.
It’s quiet and the neighbors are nice. No one bothers each other. No one is jumping into cars or blasting through stop signs or crashing into each other. No one is on drugs – no one’s getting hurt.
But it all feels so sterile. Like there’s no interaction. There’s no life.
It’s like I’m living in my “high castle,” far away from the troubles of the world.
I’m just out there, avoiding it all, and pretending it’ll all go away – like someone else will fix it.
Yet, I think about the streetwalker and Charley, and the bike kid and the driver. Who are they and what are their stories? Are they ok?
Why do I get to live in a safe bubble, away from it all, while the rest of the world lives in squalor, and keeps smashing into each other?
How are we supposed to react when the problems of the city inconveniently invade our lives?
And does anyone care?