|The door would make a nice sculpture if I could exhibit it. Lucky
for me, it was made of cheap fiberglass. I wonder why so many people criticize
the flimsy sheet metal of imports and then so many pay extra for the cheap
fiberglass sports cars. I suppose 'Excitement' can be built out of anything.
Anyway, the driver wasn't in the mood to answer these kinds of questions. He was busy yelling at me for crushing his cheap and expensive sports car's door.
I was still unfolding myself from the ground. The bus, which had stopped just two feet from my head when I fell, was in a hurry and didn't want to wait for me. It and all the other rush hour cars of Milwaukee Avenue had decided to go around me.
I was bloody. My face was flapping open at the chin, and one arm was sanded to a glossy, bright red finish. My shorts were half gone, too. And my bike, just two months old, had cartwheeled into the opposite lane of traffic. That side of the road had stopped. Nobody wanted to run over the bike.
I was quite a few feet away from the car when I lifted my head to see the driver. My glasses still had one partly usable lens.
"Hey motherfucker, why don't you watch where the hell you're going. You fucked up my fucking car door. I'm gonna kick your white ass, you little shit."
I squinted. This guy was as tall as me, but had about eighty more pounds of muscle. His cornrows and sleeveless flannel shirt didn't make him look friendly. That didn't seem to matter to me. My helmet was still on, and there wasn't much more he could do. I answered back, matching his expressive tone and vocabulary. It hurt to open my mouth.
A cop drove by. I waved at it. That was quick, I thought. Someone must have been watching. I was glad that a third-party would intervene before this guy called my bluff.
The squad car veered around me and kept going. I quit waving my bloody arm.
The driver continued to fix his car, and I decided to get up, figuring I should make a phone call. I stood in front of the car and looked inside. A young woman with large hair and a meager top was looking impatient inside. I made sure she knew I was copying the license plate number.
I went into the McDonalds next door and dripped blood on the floor. I told them there had been an accident and I asked if I could use the phone. I waited in line before they paid attention to me. I was looking outside the whole time. As I dialled, I saw the driver and his companion drive off in anger. I apparently ruined that guy's day.
"Emergency dispatch, can I help you?" Or something like that.
I stuttered out of confusion, but eventually made an intelligible stream of sentences.
"I'm sorry, I can't hear you. Can you say that again?"
"Yes, I'd like to report an accident. Hello?"
"What? What? Ugh." Click.
I stood at the counter, staring straight ahead. Blood was all over the phone. Was I imagining that 911 had just hung up on me?
I went back outside to lock up my bike, which I managed to lean against a parking meter on my way inside. Two cyclists were holding it for me. They told me they had seen the accident and offered their phone numbers in case I needed them. I thanked them, and they insisted I get some stiches and X- rays. They had seen me flip over the door and roll down the street when the guy opened his door on me.
Some part of me wanted to cry. Finally someone was helping me. They were so sincere, like a family. They understood.
I went into another building where I saw a security guard at a desk. He let me use the phone and offered some basic first aid supplies. Dispatch didn't see the need to send a police officer, but insisted on sending me an ambulance.
I stood by the side of the road until the ambulance drove up. I had given them the nearest address, and there were no sirens when they stopped for me. I slowly walked up to the van and the two paramedics layed me down inside.
They were young, clean cut, thin guys. Between asking me questions, they would make dirty jokes about each other. One slapped the other on the behind as my lenses finished falling out of the frames. I was shaken up enough to not understand they were asking me for my Social Security number. I made them waste three report forms before I realized I was giving out my phone number. They weren't angry, but then decided to put a brace around my neck and look at my pupils. It took a minute before they agreed my eyes were the same size.
They dropped me off at the emergency room. I wasn't sure where to go, and stumbled into a few private offices before a nurse angrily escorted me to the line. It wasn't too busy at 9:30 am. As I waited, I called my boss and then my roommate. I'm not sure why. I was hoping he'd check on my bike. I had saved up for months to buy it.
"Hey uh, Bill, I'm in the hospital."
"Yeah, I got in a bike accident."
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I guess so."
"Uh, okay. Goodbye."
Then they made me fill out paperwork. They wanted more than my insurance card and my ID to prove I could pay. They weren't sure they could accept my student insurance policy. They didn't like the blood I got on the forms. I didn't know what to tell them.
Eventually, they found me an examination table. An intern examined all of my joints, and made sure my back could move correctly. Then he covered half of my face with iodine and filled my chin with Novacaine. He left for a few minutes. My mouth was stuck shut from another brace and the Novacaine kept it that way.
Next to me, an old man was being treated for a heart attack. I don't know what they were doing to him, but he was yelling prayers in Spanish. It took seven interns to tie him down while they gave him some shots.
Immediately afterward, a cop showed up. He was asking if there had been any cyclists admitted to the ward, as he was there to fill out a report. Everyone in reception agreed that there had been no cyclists or motorcyclists admitted. The cop shrugged and left. My mouth was still closed shut.
The surgeon came back and sewed me up. There were ten stiches in my chin. He put bandages on my arm and knees. He was content with his work, took back his plastic braces, and released me.
I was allowed to walk home, which was about three miles away. My bike was a mile away. I limped to my bike. Families on steps stared at my face, bloody with iodine and bandaged. I noticed how quiet it was that morning.
I got to my bike and rode it home. The wheel was bent and made noise all the way. The gears weren't working anymore. I didn't know how I'd afford to fix it on my student budget.
It was too quiet at home. I just stared at myself in the mirror.
I rode the subway to work. I needed the $40 that I would make that day.
I got a bill for the visit a few days later. The ambulance was $190 for the ten block ride. The emergency room cost $370.
Soon afterward, I had gotten registration information from the police. The car was registered to a woman who lived on the far north side. Obviously not the driver.
My insurance company refused to pay my bills. They claimed I needed to file under my motor vehicle insurance, since it was a car accident. I told them I didn't have a car. They told me I had to file under the driver's liability insurance. I told them I didn't know who that was. They didn't budge.
I spoke to a lawyer, as my friend suggested. The lawyer was a pig, and somehow worked some sexist jokes into the first two minutes of conversation. He wanted some money up front. Since the owner wasn't the driver, we would have to summon the owner first, and then have a separate lawsuit for the driver. I didn't have any money anyway. I didn't do it.
Two weeks later, I had to get a follow-up exam. I had an appointment at 8:00 am to see the doctor. I went back to the hospital and eventually found the surgeon I was supposed to meet. He looked at my clothes, and at my face. He knew that the hospital was worried about my insurance.
He closed the door and in a thick, southern Indian accent said, "Mark, I will bill you for this work. Please pay me if you can, but I will not force you to pay."
He took out my stiches. I suppose I could have done that myself. That's all he did. He charged me $120.
On my way home, I rode down a quiet side street. At a stop sign I saw a parked Pontiac Fiero. I didn't really have energy left to comprehend it.
The door was dented.
It was so early in the morning. I went home and slept.
- Mark Kinsella