NORMAN — A black cruiser rode by, both riders wearing full faced helmets. He wore long pants and a t-shirt. She might have been his daughter … small, young and I would imagine very pretty. I was pleased to see the helmet, but I grimaced at the thought of what could happen in an accident, as it all too often does, when the beloved passenger’s only protection, like hers, is gym shorts and a thin summer top. We never expect to have an accident.
I teach motorcycle safety. The stories come to me in many ways, and they all have a common refrain. “I never saw it coming.” “I had to lay it down,” is code for “I didn’t plan well, wasn’t scanning ahead and I failed to allow an adequate margin of safety.” Sometimes, the story is told by a third party because the subject is unable to speak.
Seeing this fragile loved one enjoying the thrill of riding, so trusting and confident, reminded me of an experience of my own. I stood at the parts counter in Palace Auto when a man shuffled through the door wearing metal crutches, the kind that clamp to your forearms. I looked away, not wanting to stare at his condition as he squirmed his way to the counter beside me.
“Hi, Bill.” The voice was familiar, so I turned my head and saw what faintly resembled a fellow co-worker from a few years back.
“What happened?” I asked, now looking squarely at this poor soul who the last time I saw him had been the picture of health.
“Crashed my bike.”
I immediately suggested, “No helmet, huh?”
“Nope. I was just going to the store, a mile from where we used to work. I left my helmet on my desk. A truck turned in front of me … I wasn’t even going the speed limit. I tagged his rear bumper and hit the ground with my head. I only had a few small scratches, and a brain injury. I’ll never be the same. It sucks … it really sucks.”