Saturday, October 19, 2013

So I hit a person. With my car.

Yeah, that happened.  I only hit her a little.  It was one of those rare moments when I wasn't texting, drinking coffee, reaching for a tissue or fooling with the heat.  I was fully focused on driving safely out of necessity.  Leaving McDonald's, I approached the sidewalk slowly, stopped before the sidewalk and looked both ways.  It's a tricky driveway where you're pulling from the left, across the driveway, to the right where you stop before turning onto the street, and there are cars turning in from your left, trying to go exactly where your car is to get to another business.  Then I pulled up onto the sidewalk and looked both ways.  I started to turn right onto the street, when I heard an anguished scream and felt a thump.  My. Heart. Stopped.  As did my car, because I slammed on the brakes.  

There, right at my driver's side bumper is a lady, in running clothes, pounding on the hood of my car.  I felt awful.  In retrospect, I'm sure my reaction looked comic.  Hand flies over my mouth, mouthing the words I'm. So. Sorry.  She probably couldn't even read my lips with my hand over my mouth, but I'm sure she could see it in my eyes, because she just turns and continues running down the sidewalk.  And it took my brain a minute to register, she wasn't dead, no broken leg, no ambulance was coming.  Or cops.  All that ran through my mind in the second when I saw her, but the reality was she was fine.  I think the anguished scream was fear at finding herself in front of a moving, two-ton killing machine.  And the thump was her pounding on my hood full of adrenaline and fight.  Which, by the way, one's instincts in this situation should lead one to flight, since fighting the moving two-ton killing machine is a losing proposition, but whatevs.  The heart wants what the heart wants, or some other cliche that basically means sometimes your body and brain conspire to do things that don't make sense.

Since I know I was driving slowly, and I know I looked, I think she ran right in front of my car without ascertaining that I saw her.  Had I ran her over, I would feel terrible and responsible, but after replaying all the facts in my mind, ad nauseam, it might have been her fault.  Growing up, I was taught to make eye contact with drivers (even stopped drivers) when crossing in front of them.  If they're stopped at a stop sign, there's no telling they're aware of you, unless you make eye contact with them.  (Even then, you can't swear they're really seeing you or just spacing out, but your odds are better I think).  

So, I had to go to the trusty Washington Drivers Guide, and see what the real rules are:
Drivers crossing a sidewalk while entering or exiting a
driveway, alley, or parking lot must stop and yield to
The law says who must yield the right-of-way, it does not
give anyone the right-of-way. You must do everything
you can to prevent striking a pedestrian, on foot or
in a wheelchair, or another vehicle, regardless of the
So, I definitely have to yield to a person on the sidewalk in front of me, but the simple fact of being a lady running on the sidewalk doesn't give one a free pass to dart in front of cars I think.  Which actually makes me feel a lot better.  Had I actually injured this person, I don't think any assurances about legality and rules would make me feel better.  But since we're all fine, dragging some facts and research into it helps me get some much needed perspective.  And I will be even more careful crossing all sidewalks (and there are some sidewalks where I am not that careful, so this is a good thing).  And I won't go to that McDonald's again for a while (also a good thing -- I love to hate McDonalds).  And maybe that lady runner will be more careful, and avoid being struck & injured, or worse which would be a great thing.  So, we're all winners.

That day, I drove back to work slowly, shaking and didn't mention it to anyone until I got home.  Too long a story to text, not enough time for a phone call, no one at work I wanted to share it with.  I like to think about how I'm feeling before I share it, and sometimes I think so long the moment is over, and I don't know how to start sharing.  That is something I have been working on -- say how I'm feeling, and don't worry if it's "right", or if I'm saying it the right way to "make" myself understood (and hence, "make" the person I'm sharing with feel the way I want them to, or respond the way I want them to).  And I have been doing this very well, until I thought for a moment that I killed a person.  But I mustered, and the minute I walked in the door that night, I told Mark what happened, and had several glasses of wine, and generally just had a moment, and am moving on.  Hence, this post is happening.

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