Hell on wheels

Photo by Infomatique via Creative Commons

I hit a guy on a bike today.  Just a little bit, like a nudge.

The front bumper of my car tapped him as he pedaled into my path. I was stopped at a corner. I wasn’t looking forward when I lifted my foot off the brake. I was looking to my left, gauging oncoming traffic and how I could gun it to merge into the flow. I was tired and I was in a hurry.

Traffic opened.  I lifted my foot off the brake.

In a split second I turned to see this man on a bike at the front end of my car, pinwheeling his arms and mouthing obscenities. In a split second my foot jumped back on the brake.  My hands flew up to my mouth.

ohmygodohmygodohmyfuckingod

I sat there, hands held palm-to-palm in prayer, pleading his forgiveness. I watched as he jumped back on his bike, leaned forward, grabbed the handlebars, locked eyes with me and shouted words that rhyme with hunt and witch.

It could have been oh-so-much worse, I thought, as he rode away. He seemed OK.

He appeared to be homeless, a street person, with his tattered clothing, salt and pepper wild beard and skull cap. Several stuffed-to-the-brim bags dangled from the bike’s handlebars.  I didn’t ask him if he was OK. I said it aloud inside the car but not to him so that he could hear me. I didn’t pull over to verify anything. I just went on my way, shaking and feeling like dirt.

My Girl from the East was strapped in her car seat in the back. We were on our way to a group playdate.

“Mama, he needed to be more careful,” Girl from the East said in her matter-of-fact way. Of course, she assumed this near-accident was his doing.

It occurred to me that she had no idea what almost happened. She has no idea how her entire life and safety were in my hands. It occurred to me that I have no idea how dangerous I am when I am tired.

As I continued on my way, I felt my heart beating in my chest, beads of sweat gathering on my temples and under my arms. I looked in the rear view mirror at Girl from the East. I thought again of the man in tattered clothing. One means everything to me; the other is a stranger. Yet both lives are so fragile, both hold equal value.

Whenever I’m on the road with children in the car, I worry for their safety. I think of the dangers as being outside of the car.

I need to be awake. I need to get some sleep.

It’s all a vicious cycle. I was distracted and careless because I was tired.

I was tired because I stayed up well past 1 a.m. getting caught up on things I didn’t get done the day before.

I was tired that day and behind because of lack of sleep the night before that.

On and on and  on.

I need sleep.

Sort-of hitting someone on a bike is a big two-by-four across the temple.

Sure, I could argue the guy looked homeless and maybe a little drunk or high.

So what?

Sure, I could defend myself and say I was at a busy intersection, trying to merge into traffic, and he pedaled right in front of me. Doesn’t he know to make sure the driver sees him before going in front of a car?

So what?

If someone else was the driver and the bike rider was one of my children, would I accept those lame-ass excuses?

No.

I need to get some sleep.

I need to be awake.

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8 thoughts on “Hell on wheels

  1. I know how you feel. I often drive home on autopilot and think to myself ‘Gee I really should have been paying more attention then’. The fatigue that we suffer as parents should not be worn as a badge of honour, it isn’t good for us and can put the wellbeing of others at risk. Life is fragile; we need to take better care of ourselves to minimise the possibility of that split-second lack of concentration that can’t be taken back.
    .-= Tenille´s last blog ..The Boofhead =-.

  2. This same exact thing happened to me many years ago, except it was a little boy I “tapped”. He got right back up and rode away. I was so shaken I didn’t know what to do. The street I was turning on was a one way street and by the time I circled around to find him he and his brother were gone. I have been haunted by that moment ever since. I need to be awake and aware!
    .-= Mama Mary´s last blog ..saying goodbye =-.

  3. Ah, shite. That’s scary.I know I’ve driven before when I’ve been so tired, I’ve had to grip the wheel tightly and open all the windows — in the middle of a sunny afternoon. I hope you get good rest tonight.
    .-= small town small times´s last blog ..Okay, so… =-.

  4. I recall my brother telling me years ago that he almost hit a guy on a bike (on the freeway no less) and that both their lives might have changed forever in the blink of an eye.

    We’ve all been w/in eye blinks of changing our lives irrevocably with a careless or tired move, BUT methinks responsibility here would have been shared with the bike rider.

    NOT to minimize the circumstances, only to observe them.
    .-= San Diego Momma´s last blog ..The Lesson Isn’t Always What You Expect =-.

  5. San Diego Momma: It’s that whole blink of an eye thing that gets me sometimes. You are right about the cyclist. I know it. Yet, it still haunts me.
    Meleah: I slept well last night. Now if only I could make it a habit.
    Small Town: I’m always tired in the middle of a sunny afternoon and wide awake at midnight.
    Coco: Oh, my! i need to get on over and visit.
    TeacherMommy: I need sleep — and a paid driver.
    MamaMary: Oh, even worse, a child!
    Tenille: Thanks for stopping by. Sleep deprivation is definitely not a badge of honor. Take my dark circles, please.

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