Close calls and blunt methods of communication

On my way home from work yesterday, I was nearly hit by a car. I realize in typing that out that it’s both a somewhat sensationalist thing to say, and also something that happens so frequently in various forms of seriousness and closeness that it’s sort of meaningless. But to be fully objective, I was biking south through an intersection, signaling and about to turn left, and saw a car coming up perpendicularly from my left to a stop sign at a speed that made me wonder if it was truly going to stop. It slowed, but did not stop, and as I swerved to my right to avoid being hit (with a hearty “JESUS CHRIST” through the open window), it did actually stop, and I then proceeded to turn left through the intersection. No one was hurt; they didn’t touch me; I biked off, but I shed a few tears at what always feels like the injustice of it all as I almost always do when I’m almost hit by a car, once the adrenaline washes off.

I say that using the words “almost hit by a car” is somewhat meaningless, at least in my life, because I realize I use this phrase a lot, for any circumstance where if someone had paid just a little bit less attention, or been just a little faster or slower, or had just a little bit different of a reaction time, or had worse brakes, or whatever, that it would have resulted in a collision. I think this happens so frequently that I almost don’t even notice it, just call it part of defensive biking. But in this case, for realz, even though I saw it coming and had taken steps to be defensive, I was still almost hit by a car that didn’t stop at a stop sign.

This brings us to Part 2, the blunt methods of communication.

I did not communicate with the driver or his passenger, other than to unsuccessfully attempt to make eye contact before they entered the intersection (as I do with all drivers when our paths are about to cross) and to reflexively say “jesus christ” when I was surprised at how close they actually got. Nor did they communicate with me other than to actually stop their car before they hit me. But there were two pedestrians who saw the whole thing happen, and they did say some words. Unfortunately, I couldn’t exactly understand them, but something about “stop sign.” At the time, I understood it to mean that yes, they had noticed that this person in a giant car had run the stop sign and almost hit me and they were commiserating with me. But something about it felt weird, and later I wondered if they thought that I had actually run a stop sign (I did not have a stop sign in my direction) and that if I had stopped then this car wouldn’t have had to brake suddenly and that it was my fault that a driver had almost run into me. I started wondering if this was a “stupid cyclist getting what she deserves” sort of reaction.

I have no idea, because I didn’t understand what they said. And I didn’t stop to clarify with anyone, because really what was I going to do there, and what was the point? But as I kept biking home, I thought for a long time about how all three of us — me, the drivers, and the pedestrians — might have extremely different versions of what happened in those 3 seconds, and I kind of wondered what all our different takes on it were. And I wondered how the story we each told ourselves carried forward into our next interactions, or the way we conceived of ourselves or of drivers or cyclists going forward. And this is the case for everything in life, I thought, that I have no idea what anyone makes of anything, and we’re all carrying forward our own maybe very different meanings from the same interaction in ways that really no one has any control or influence over.

It makes me want to stop and check in with everyone, about everything. “What was your understanding of what just happened?” Or “how does this impact your perception of [whatever]?” Or “are we understanding this in the same way?” I guess I’m just feeling overwhelmed right now by how big the distance between any of us is, even though we can still be so physically close to each other (in some cases, like with this car, much too close, ha).

So that is all. I was almost hit by a car, and now I’m questioning how much I ever understand about anything. heh. Just kidding. This isn’t an existential crisis. But doesn’t it seem kind of amazing all the different perceptions and understandings that can potentially come out of 5 people who are in the same space for only three seconds of life?


(and for something completely different, a scene from work the other day;)

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