Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why Don’t Yew

That’s the subject line of an email I sent my mother not long ago.

It continued: “Look into how we’d get Skype so we can see each other when we talk?”

She wrote back:

“I’ve put it on my to-do list (at the bottom).”

I keep forgetting to say that private traffic must now exit Market St. at either Eighth or Sixth by turning right. The city is so serious about this that they have had workers standing in those intersections every day for many weeks now insisting that private vehicles get off the main drag.

It is quite luxurious for us cyclists to have so few cars on Market St., though at first, I noticed that cab drivers seemed to be going all the faster, as if they were on some sort of law-free frontier. Cyclists were invited to send their feedback to the city, and I mentioned this along with my thanks, and maybe others did, too, because cab drivers seem to be back to their normal level of recklessness.

I had additional reason to be grateful for the reduced amount of traffic on Market St. when, in a bizarre four-day stretch of accident proneness, I foolishly rode over a round white lane marker in the rain (those evil devices known as Bott’s Dots; thanks, David) landing solidly on my left knee and giving the left side of my head a hearty thump as well.

(For the record, the night before that, I sliced my thumb while cutting bread. The day after my bike accident, I cut the top of my toe on a toilet seat. If you’d also like to do this, I can try to explain in a subsequent entry exactly how it happened. And when I opened the carton my new bike helmet came in—you should replace your bike helmet once it receives pretty much any type of impact, even if it looks fine—I got not one but two paper cuts.)

I lay on the ground for a while—and that’s why it’s good there is less traffic on Market St.—saying “Ow ow ow ow,” on account of my hapless knee, and the workmen I was going around in the first place eventually drifted over and, not going so far as to help me up, which might have implied some sort of liability, did ask if I thought I’d be able to get up.

After a bit, I could and did rise to my feet, and my bike was fine, and I was actually able to ride the rest of the way to work, but, with a headache having developed right away and the specter of poor Natasha Richardson hovering before me, I called my doctor’s office and they said to proceed to the emergency room and have my head scanned, which I did, and also had my abraded knee taped up. At the hospital, they said the side of the head, which is what I landed on, is the worst thing to bump because of some artery or something right there.

Needless to say (so I will be sure to say it), my head was encased in a helmet at the time of impact, and this is actually one of the best reasons for wearing a helmet. Not to be a Gloomy Gus, but if you really get clobbered by a motor vehicle, your helmet is not going to make much of a difference. But if you get very slightly bumped by a car, or have one of any number of minor mishaps that cause you to hit your head, with or without a fall per se, a helmet could make the entire difference between living and dying.

In sum, when you’re deciding whether or not to put your helmet on, think of Liam Neeson.

Final tally: Scraped knee, eight or nine bruises, and the embarrassment of having to admit to my first moving single-person bicycle accident. I would have said “first single-person bicycle accident,” period, but then I remembered the time I fell down a flight of cement stairs while carrying my bike. I’d put my helmet on before starting down the stairs and it helped then, too. I didn’t call my doctor that time. I was younger and less of a hypochondriac, and Natasha Richardson was still alive.

The brain scan showed that there was no internal bleeding and that everything that had been inside my head was still more or less there. Which is not to make any claims for the original quality or quantity of that substance.

They gave me 30 Vicodin and 30 Soma (muscle relaxants), thus suddenly increasing my popularity: “You can send Mommy some Vicodin,” suggested one email. Another, from a co-worker, contained just two words, the name of the internal mail system at our company. (My mother later discovered that Vicodin contains acetaminophen and retracted her request, which I imagine was not serious to begin with.)

I didn’t take any Vicodin—I’d had occasion to take one in the past, and it made me feel like I was being dragged underwater—but I did try a muscle relaxant, and immediately felt very stoned.

I happened to have a medical test a couple of days after the accident, and when Dr. M. called with the results—all was well—she said, “So, I see you had a bike accident! I hope you’re OK.” That was very nice, and slightly humiliating. Dr. M. really makes good use of the new computerized health records, as I discovered when I went for my annual exam and she mystified and dazzled me by saying, “I see your eye doctor told you to do such-and-such. Did you do it?”
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