Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy a good bicycle. I went through a few in Paris, got a brand new baby in London, and adopted a little yellow thing named Hugh in Brooklyn that has been my lifeline. It gets me around this borough, cutting travel time, letting me discover the city, and giving me a little bit of "fresh" air instead of entering the bowels of the subway.
Little did I know how my bike would help me make a new friend.
Riding home along Willoughby Avenue, on the bike path as usual, it was just another Wednesday night for me. It was warm but not hot, breezy but not windy, and the sun hadn't set yet. I had hummus and cucumbers in my backpack, just purchased from the grocery store, so you know I was going to have a good night.
Cyclists rode ahead and behind me. All was normal. Up ahead, an SUV was parked in the bike lane. Again, not an anomaly. An annoyance, yes, but not an anomaly. Cyclists in front of me rode around it, having no other choice. I looked over my shoulder to make sure it was safe to do so. It was. Then I looked in front of me and saw the SUV door swing open, colliding with the cyclist in front of me, throwing her and her dog from the bike and into the center of traffic. She screamed.
A pedestrian and I both stopped immediately to help her. She was shaking. The dog was fine. We pulled her to the sidewalk and, of course, the SUV drove away without even checking to see if she was OK. I won't get into that now, but in this particular corner of Bed Stuy, it didn't surprise me. The woman, a 40-something local, was very shaken. I knew what she was going through, having been in my fair share of street incidents in Paris and London.
She got her bearings, the pedestrian shared her phone number and left, and I sat with Chiz, that was her name, as she decided what to do. Did she have to go to the hospital? Probably not. The police station? Maybe. I offered to walk with her and we spoke. She was from Japan, originally, and welcomed my help since English was not her first language. I explained to her that I knew exactly what that was like, having to go to doctors in Italy and China. We got to know each other on the walk.
The police officers at the station told us to go back to the scene of the incident and call 911. Protocol, they said. We did just that, and talked some more, laughing about how silly the protocol seemed. But whatever.
|Man's best friend.|
Back on Willoughby Avenue, we learned more about each other for the next hour, waiting for the police to arrive. Chiz and her dog reminded me of so many people I had met around the world, multicultural people with stories and perspectives that never ceased to amaze me. We discussed Europe and Japan and how New York was a place that always made Chiz feel like was at home.
Eventually the police came and informed us that there was little they could do about the SUV, even though we had memorized the license plate and there were cameras around that had captured the incident. It felt a bit dismissive, but in this city, the police officers said, it happens all the time. I wasn't surprised and had accepted it myself that if anything would kill me in this city, it would be a stupid car accident like this. Not even a good one. I wear my helmet just in case.
We filed the report and Chiz and I walked towards our homes. We chose not to ride ther rest of the night. She invited me to a barbecue one day. I told her to ice her wounds when she got home, as if she'd forget about them. We laughed and smiled and enjoyed our little impromptu meeting, despite the terrible circumstances.
Turns out we're also neighbors. Maybe we'll see each other soon. Maybe not. Still, it felt good to meet someone new, to have a meaningful interaction, and to never have the specter of the pandemic looming over it. We shook hands as we departed, never questioning it. It's been a long time since I've had that sort of human contact, a new interaction, and one where smiles were on display.
I could get used to it.