On Tuesday, June 8th 2004, day of the transit of Venus across
the Sun, at around 9:05 PM, I took a drive up a country road
toward a campground in the watershed hills. It was dark, overcast
I am driving the 4-wheeled internal combustion beast up the slow
winding road as a motorcycle is coming down the opposite lane.
For some reason the cyclist veers wide near a large gravel turnout,
hits the edge of the turnout and drops with his bike, skidding hard
on the gravel for about 30 yards into the hillside. I immediately
U-turn and park to see if he's all right.
He gets up from under his bike, stands wobbling, attempts to
raise his bike then wanders around, trying to shake it off.
Big guy, over 6 feet tall, wearing a helmet with a full backpack
and a brand new hole in his jeans' left knee. I ask him if
anything is broken, he's not sure but doesn't think so.
Neither one of us is carrying a phone.
He has a strange accent, difficult to place - maybe Eastern European,
maybe somewhere else. He's really out of it, in shock. I tell him to
sit down or maybe lie down. He sits on the fender of my car.
We decide that he should probably go to the hospital, so I figure
I'll just drive him to one. But by now he is lying on the hood of
the car. He asks for water, I give him a diet soda. He thinks maybe
his left ankle is broken. Moments later, another guy on another
motorcycle drives by, stops and offers to call 911 on his cell phone.
I agree this is probably a better idea than driving him.
So this other guy tries to call 911 on his cell phone but can't get
a signal. We're in a blind spot in the hills, and he has trouble
restarting his own bike in order to find a more receptive location.
He disappears into the night. It's about 9:15/9:20 when he returns
saying he got through to 911. He decides to stick around as he gave
his name on the phone. He also notices in the darkness that blood
is trickling onto my car. The injured guy is clearly bleeding more
than just a little.
Around 9:40 a fire truck arrives, four guys get out and check on
the injured biker. He tells them he'll be 28 in July. The fire truck
guys call an ambulance, which quickly arrives. The two ambulance
guys really have their shit together. As one med tech uses a pair of
scissors to slice open the pants leg to reveal a large bleeding wound
on the guy's left knee, he tells the other attendant to bring a
They squirt a steady stream of water on the gaping wound. By now
they've got his helmet and backpack off, established that he remembers
everything and has strength in his hands. He tells them he was reluctant
to take this route home and was almost out of there, but became
distracted for some reason when he saw my headlights. Neither one of us
were speeding (then again, he might have been).
I had a weird dream just prior to taking this ride: I was swimming
under obstacles and was distressed - looking for an escape.
Ironically, the guy most likely would not have crashed his bike if
I hadn't been there at that precise moment, even though I was driving
safely, no high beams.
He is still lying on the hood of my car like a makeshift operating table.
Prior to all this, the second motorcycle guy with the cell phone asks what
I do for a living. He tells me what he does, and we commiserate over the
struggling economy and contemplate the weirdities of fate. The usual BS.
Similarly, he was also just going for a ride...
Then it hit me. Standing there on the roadside, watching this scene before
me, the wounded guy in pain, bleeding, being attended to and bandaged in
the cold night air, the Big Dipper barely showing through the clouds.
I got this gut shock about all the injured people around the world on a
daily basis: rocket propelled grenades and ammunition wounds. Stab wounds.
Accidents, murders, beatings, and wars. Limb losses, suicides and deaths.
Whew! Quite a reality hit. People living their lives, getting hurt, hurting
others. Dying. Then there are the people who help them all out. Some I know.
Naturally, I'm thinking of the people who matter most to me and how
temporary all this is. Fragile beings we humans...
So.... Professionalism abounds; the fire truck guys take off, thanking
everyone, and the ambulance guys secure their lucky patient for a ride
to the hospital. I wish their patient well. Goodbye. He is so
appreciative and innocent. 'He will be fine,' is the consensus.
At this moment, finally, a cop arrives on the scene. Hmmm....
I'm looking at all the blood and dust on the hood of my car,
a diet soda on the roof. Okay... looks odd, but this can be explained.
The cop is a cool guy. Very young (like everyone else that night).
Takes his report, writes down my info after briefly scanning my driver's
license, and asks if the biker was speeding. I say no. He just got
distracted by my oncoming lights and caught the edge of the gravel,
and lost it. The skid trail is still visible in the dirt.
A tow truck arrives to scoop up the fallen bike to take to a storage
facility for later recovery by the driver. All is finished. We all thank
each other. We all depart. I go to a self-service gas station to fill up
the 4-wheeled internal combustion beast. Unexpectedly, the station attendant
does the full-service routine, at self-service cost, so as he's washing the
back window, I look at the hood covered with blood and quickly gather towels
to wipe it all off before he sees it. A weird moment.
All is done. I return home, late, feeling a bit more aware and unsettled.
Grieving over my own transient losses, feeling a little remorse and sadness,
but sensing quiet aliveness too.