Monday, October 09, 2006

In case you were wondering about my bike route home these days... well, I usually just take Rhode Island Ave east from the point it meets Florida Ave. But when I'm biking during rush hour, I still cut through LeDroit Park and Anna Cooper Circle to avoid traffic like I used to. This is what I did today.

Fascinating stuff, I'm sure, but stick with me here.

A block east of Cooper circle, at the intersection of T and (ummmm) 2nd street (where the Anna J. Cooper House is... have I mentioned how I always used to go past the decaying shell of the Cooper House and think to myself how it looked like a Faulkner Novel?) there was a Saab convertible sitting in the middle of the intersection with its top down. T and 2nd is less a true intersection than one road deadending into another-- 2nd Street traffic doesn't even have a stop sign. So it seemed odd when I realized the car was just sitting there, though not terribly so. Sometimes traffic gets snagged on those side streets for no apparent reason.

I knew something was off, however, when I got closer still and saw that there was nobody in the car. I saw a group of people standing off to the right. A few yards closer and I saw that the front end of the Saab was pretty smashed up, with the bumper hanging off, and began wondering where the other car was. The car was facing NE, stopped in the middle of a left turn onto 2nd. A few yards further and I could see parts and debris on the street. One of them was a light, but a light off on a stalk, not like you see on cars.

Before this even had time to register, I saw next to it a plastic visor. The kind of visor you see on a motorcycle helmet. Just as I was putting these two things together, I saw the motorcycle itself lying on its side. It had been hidden behind the car up until then.

Slowing, I looked around for the rider. He was off to the right, lying on his side, surrounded by what I can only assume were the Saab's passengers. He was rolling back and forth, the people on the street telling him not to try to get up, people watching from their porches telling him that the police were on their way.

I presume an ambulance as well, but they only mentioned the police.

He was lying a good ways away from his bike. I'm not a good judge of distance, but I would say at least ten yards. He must have been thrown that far by the collision. He must have been going pretty fast. The Saab driver either didn't see him coming or mistook the intersection for a three-way stop.

I didn't know what to do. Obviously he already had plenty of help. My stopping wouldn't contribute much. But I really felt like a tool just going along my way, rubbernecking. Especially since I had to ride right between the car and the bike, swerving on the way to avoid the visor, the light, and a banged up license plate.

Which reminds me of my other recent gawk. Sunday my housemate S. came in and asked if I had seen the black smoke on the horizon. I hadn't, so went outside to look. Black smoke on the horizon, quite a bit of it. B. wondered aloud if it meant The Others were going to come for us. It looked like a lot of smoke, possibly from a warehouse fire or similar.

At that point I needed to go to the grocery store anyway, which happened to be in the same direction as the column. When I got there I realized two things: first, that the smoke was further east than it had appeared and second, that I had left my U-lock key at home. So, rather than declaring the trip a loss and immediately turning around, I headed further off to see where the fire was.

As I got closer to the smoke, riding around twisty named streets in a residential neighborhood, I found my way blocked off by cop cars at several intersections. Finally, all but completely lost, I saw a firehose thick with water laid across the street in front of me. I followed it up a hill with my gaze and there it was: somebody's house on fire, the flames raging impressively from the rooftop. I sheepishly dismounted my bike and carried it over the firehose, not sure what would happen if I tried to ride over it, found 17th Street, found Rhode Island, and headed home for my key.

Cheap holidays in other people's misery.
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