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* * So I got rear-ended

A confusing swirl of thoughts swept my mind as I lay there in the middle of the road, my helmeted head resting against the pavement. I felt that unsettled mixture of pain, apprehension, and indignity, coming to grips with the fact that I’d just been rear-ended, thrown from my motorcycle by someone clearly not bothering to take the responsibility of driving seriously.

Was I hurt? I didn’t know. I knew I felt nauseous and disoriented. I knew my new BMW motorcycle was somewhere nearby, but I had no idea how badly it might have been damaged.

I had just left my office in the Christiansburg Industrial Park. I was on Industrial Park Drive, fully stopped, looking to make a right turn on Roanoke Road, headed to some errands in town before home. It was cold, about 25F as I recall. I was fully decked out in my normal protective gear – helmet, reinforced jacket and pants, gloves – and with the season even my electric jacket. I always wear protective gear. It makes a huge difference in a spill. Ask me how I know.

I continued to assess my condition. I unwrapped my legs from where they’d landed. The driver appeared, looming over me. He wore an orange jacket. “Are you okay?”

Me, “I’m not sure.”

“Do you want to get up?”

“No thanks. I think I’ll just lay here.” I needed a moment to self-assess. I was happy to have the helmet on. Not as comfortable as a pillow, but given the asphalt “mattress,” it was passably relaxing. I was in no hurry.

He continued to stand there. No apology, of course. Some lame excuse like, “I thought I’d put it in ‘Park,’” that I didn’t believe. Nobody puts their car in ‘Park’ at intersections.

Shortly thereafter, sirens rang out. People wearing nice, crisp uniforms began appearing. A cute police woman. The fire chief. Some rescue squad people, all looking young enough to be still in high school. Even the fire inspector, who earlier that same day had inspected my building, said something funny like, “Nice seeing you again, but sooner than I expected,” showed up. I don’t know if he really said that. I was groggy.

Some minutes later, the fire chief and inspector convinced me to get up, and they lifted me to my feet. I took off my helmet and the young rescue squad people escorted me their van for an evaluation. My vital signs were apparently good enough to reassure them, but I asked if they’d walk with me for a few minutes to see if I still had my balance. Presumably my motorcycle was being picked up outside.

Riding a motorcycle in traffic is not for the faint of heart. But I’ve been doing it since my teen years, with few incidents, none seriously since my early 20s. Still, a rider must be on his or her game, and I wanted to feel secure that I could manage safely.

The lady cop called me over to her car and asked me my version of what happened. Simple. I came to a stop. I looked left to prepare to turn right. Somebody smacked the rear of my motorcycle. The impact wrenched my hands off the bars as the bike lurched forward and fell over, pitching me off it. Was I hurt? A bit sore, but fine. No, I didn’t want to go to the emergency room. I just wanted to ride home. And have my motorcycle fixed. An apology would be nice, but I didn’t hold any hope. Yes, I was sure I was okay. She gave me a copy of the police report.

I suspect people figure if a 60+ year old man gets thrown onto the pavement, something must hurt. But they let me go. I rode home, gingerly, fearful whenever in proximity of any car, as if I had a target painted on my back. I made it home without incident, but still freaked out. I took some ibuprofen and went to bed early.

The next day, I posted about my mishap on Facebook, asking if anybody else had been a victim of an accident in which they’d not been at fault in any way. I was astounded and horrified by the quantity and severity of the responses. Some brought me to tears.

I don’t ascribe to the “It could have been worse,” meme, as things just happen as they happen. It couldn’t have been worse and it couldn’t have been better. It just happened. But hearing stories of people killed or lives ruined by other drivers’ inattention and carelessness was a hard reminder of the stakes we all face behind the wheel (or in my case, the handlebar) of a motor vehicle.

Please, if you’re driving, hang up the phone. Don’t touch that drink. Pay attention.

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