Typical start to morning today: stay in bed as Mike wakes me up leaving for his job, roll over as my alarm clock goes off, finally get out of bed around my average of 10 minutes past the alarm. Shower, being careful not to lean on the wall and happy that I found our how to work the secret hot-water heater control: still not comfortable but at least warm. Breakfast of yogurt and the healthiest, most versatile food in the world: muesli. Contacts in, dressed, check that I have a book to read during lunch, and down to get my bike. Tires: still full of air, I’m good to go. Start my watch’s chronometer: been trying to make it in under 15 minutes to and from work for the last week, with about a 50-50 success rate. Air-filtering mask on, helmet fastened, and I’m out the door.
Last thing I remember before the ambulance is riding along York Way, a busier road that takes up a good 3 minutes at the start of my ride. I wasn’t in any particular hurry: if I got to work within 5 minute of my target time, which I always do, I’d still be a little early. Just racing the clock, like I usually do.
I think I was down near the bottom of York Way when the collision happened, as it’s there that I ride the wrong way alongside a one-way street for a few blocks. Occasionally cabbies will honk at me, but I always stay far to the side and have never had even the slightest problem on this part of my route before today.
I wake up in the ambulance, not knowing what happened. I look over and see my bike, but I can’t tell if it’s screwed up or not. The paramedics explain that I had a head-on collision with a motorcycle going just 3 or 4 miles an hour and that I was going the wrong way on a one-way street.
Next thing I remember is being in the hospital. My jaw and ankle feel sore, but that’s about the extent of my pain. I don’t see any IVs in me or anything; in fact, the only attention I’m getting is an occasional nurse checking my blood pressure and pulse. After awhile, a few more naps interspersed with reading a book, a doctor comes over. He’s friendly, asking me what hurts and feeling my jawbone, and orders x-rays to ensure that nothing’s broken. A few naps later I’m wheeled to an old-fashioned-looking x-ray room with a chrome-and-white contraption looking like it would be more at home in Dr. Evil’s lab than a modern hospital. They take about 5 x-rays of my head, and I’m more worried about the radiation exposure from this antique goliath than my minor injuries.
I call work, explaining why I won’t be in today. They understand, wishing me luck.
More attempts at reading that end up being mainly naps then a nurse wakes me up.
“Is there anyone you can call to come get you?”
“Not really. I feel Ok, I think I can go.”
“Well, our standard procedure with head injuries is to keep patients overnight. You did suffer from amnesia. I’d like you to stay here overnight.”
“Oh, really? Even though I had a helmet on and everything? If you really want me to, I can call my friend at work to come get me…”
“You’re really keen on going, aren’t you? We can have you sign a waiver and release you. Here, read this. I’ll be right back.”
I’ve been handed a sheet on what to do after suffering a head injury. Nothing too exotic: return if you get really bad headaches, suffer excessive drowsiness, etc. standard stuff. For some reason, I’m not supposed to watch television.
The nurse returns along with an older, more important looking coworker.
“Hi, Luke. I’ve been observing you all day and, other than having had to spend an entire day in this hospital, you seem fine. One thing: you’ve been sleeping a lot. Is that normal?”
“Yeah, I always sleep a lot”
“Well, you haven’t shown any signs of hemorrhaging or anything else… I think you’re Ok to go. If you experience severe headaches or anything else unusual, come back in. This is the nearest hospital to your house, right? We want to see you right away if anything happens; don’t go somewhere else.”
“Ok, I will.”
A few minute pass, for which I actually remain awake. A new nurse arrives:
“Ok, you’re free to go now.”
“Thanks. Where’s my bike?”
She goes to ask other about it. After awhile, some guy nurse comes to escort me out:
“It may be out back here, that’s where they leave a lot of them. I have a bike myself, a nice one, but you’re probably better off just getting a clunker for 70 pounds. Mine’s more of a liability, really.”
We find my bike, complete with helmet. The force of the crash has bent both legs of the triangular frame near the front fork, flattened the front tire, and pushed the front wheel so far back that it’s against the chain and unable to spin. Needless to say, I won’t be riding anytime soon.
“I might as well just throw this away. Do you know where the nearest dumpster or something is?”
“Here, I’ll take your helmet to throw away inside: you’re not supposed to reuse them after a crash. Tell you what: just leave it here. I never saw this.”
I thank him and walk away. I definitely won’t be going for a run today, but my ankle’s in good enough condition that I can walk with almost no pain. I call Mike at work, explaining what happened. He asks if I need anything, I tell him I’m fine, he tells me to call my parents. I eat a McFlurry in a McDonald’s: horrible multinational corporation or not, their ice cream’s still good, and I’m not exactly pumped to go comparison shopping.
Telling myself that I’m healthy, that this slight headache and ankle soreness are no big deal, I decide to walk the mile or so home instead of hopping on the subway to cut the trip in half. I stop in a bakery to ease my soreness with a cupcake, which actually works pretty well.
Coming to an internet cafe, I check the number for American Airlines and then call home. Dad and mom obviously not happy to hear about my injury, but they’re fairly calm. I talk to both without mentioning that I might want to come home early. Calling American Airlines, I find out that I can leave Saturday morning, arriving in JFK before 1 in the afternoon. I ask how many seats are left on that flight; there’s only 1. I tell the operator I’ll call her back in a minute. Another call to dad: should I come home? He doesn’t hesitate at all before replying with a loud yes. I call American Airlines back, changing my flight from August 10th to July 27th. I’ve had a good adventure, but I’m ready to go home.
As I veg out on the couch, my landlord comes in.
"Mr. Michaels, I got hit by a motorcycle today. I'm Ok and everything, but this is going to be my last week here: I'm going home Saturday."
"Oh, I see. You should go: these bad things, they tend to happen in 2s or 3s."
My sudden leaving makes total sense to my landlord because he's superstitious.
On the way back from dinner, Mike breaks the silence: “Dude, I hate to say this, but I wish I could see a video of what happened to you. You must have flown pretty far.” Actually, my accident may be on tape: there’s stupid cameras everywhere here. That video would definitely make an interesting souvenier...