Sales are way up and so are deliveries and therefore more driving is happening and so it was bound to happen – SMACK went the truck behind me right into the rear-end of my truck, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, there he stuck, hung up on my trailer hitch, for the better part of an hour while six lanes of rushing traffic flowed all around us. The clack and roll of skateboards on concrete could be heard from the under-freeway skate park that sits on the corner at Division and Mission.
The two strong looking Latino men inhabiting the truck gone amok were polite and compliant but it must be said, not offering any insurance or license information until I asked for it. I can’t say as I blame them, I would be taking my cues from the rammee, too, if I were in the rammer shoes. I snapped photos and saved to Evernote and we stood around watching as different configurations of men attempted to unhook our trucks from their unholy connection.
“You guys hit me pretty hard,” I said to the passenger. We watched as his companion, the errant driver, used the tire iron my husband keeps under the seat to do something that involved a lot of clanging but changed the hooked-together nature of our vehicles not a bit. Personally I think he was avoiding dealing with me, because he did know in fact that their truck hit me pretty hard indeed, as he was driving – accelerating, even – at the time of impact.
“You sure did,” volunteered a skater boy who’d ventured over to watch the proceedings. “Can I help?” he asked me, and I shrugged and indicated the hitch hitching the trucks together and he said “If you remove the hitch the bumper will be released?”
I looked and he was right and both of the Latino men busied themselves removing the hitch and freeing the trucks and then very nicely restoring my trailer hitch (but upside down).
“Your truck looks ok – you’re lucky. How about you, are you ok?” asked the skater boy. He is looking at my exposed right forearm with a frown. I can’t blame him, the forearm in question is a hideous landscape of purple and peeling skin.
“That didn’t happen just now, did it?” he asked with some alarm.
We stare at the second degree burns on my arm, which actually look much better than they did earlier in the week, when a hose popped off a faucet and doused me with scalding water that instantly bubbled my skin into strange jellyfish-like shapes and colors.
Different accident, burned myself, I say to him with a smile. He smacks his narrow fist into this palm with a meaty thwack and I jump a little at the sound.
“SMACK! We all heard it. Thought sure someone would be hurt. You were LUCKY!”
He drops his skateboard onto the narrow median and slides away, a river of traffic no more than twelves inches on each side of his bony tattooed arms. To myself I think, huh, officially -literally – crashed and burned this week. And survived to laugh with a skater boy over it.
The truck is not much damaged – at least, not in any obvious, see it with your eyeballs way, for which I am grateful. As soon as the hitch is successfully removed we shook hands all around and off I went, figuring that was that. I think no more of the incident other than to remind myself to turn a report in to the insurance company, not even the next day when I wake feeling as if I’d run an 18 miler the day before.
Man how far did I go yesterday, I think sleepily before realizing I haven’t run in more than a week (and I haven’t run long enough to make me sore the next morning in months) and I haven’t re-started yoga or weight lifting or rock-climbing or tennis or fast pitch softball but I *feel* as if I’ve done all of them, very recently, and with no rest.
When I try to pop out of bed and feel the weird new intractability of my lower back, I remember the crash. The aches and pains follow a path from my lower back to my neck, with about twenty individual super achy points in between. But still, skater boy is right, I am lucky. I can walk, I can stretch, and most importantly… I can work. No time to whinge!
Traffic is insane in the city this Superbowl weekend but with only 6 hours of nonwork in the past 72 hours I need to be out and about., so we mount the motorcycle and zoom down to check out the gladiatorial crowds which were claustrophobically dense, even spread all along the Embarcadero. The motorcycle ride makes me exquisitely aware of my spine in a way that I wasn’t, pre-rear-ending.
The throngs of out-of-towners strolling the broad palm-lined boulevard remind me of the Italian tradition of the passeggiata, an easy going stroll that starts just after sunset, everyone strutting about in their finery and checking up on who needs to be gossiped about.
The men appear to be in uniform in their team hats and jerseys, but many of the women were dressed for a night out, in sparkly party dresses and sky high heels. The sound of high heels clicking on concrete made my feet in their sensible motorcycle boots shiver with happiness. Some things about getting older are great, like not giving a rats ass how cool you look walking down the Embarcadero in a huge sweaty heaving mass of humanity.
Wandering the crowd I recall walking with my friend Sue one evening to a chorus of hissing, the charming flirtatious device of the men of Sicily when they see an unaccompanied woman they find attractive. I sniff ten different kinds of perfume and am tempted to put my helmet on so I can flip the visor down but then I would have missed this awesome picture of the flag, backlit by the setting sun against the bluest sky in the world, so I’m glad that I didn’t.
We think about stopping somewhere for a beer but it quickly becomes clear there will be no ‘just’ stopping anywhere and so we flee the madding crowds and twenty minutes later we are buzzing down Columbus Avenue which is equally throngy on this beautiful day. We decide to buy some coffee at the local roastery. We chat with the owner Luigii for a bit and then head up the avenue to Cafe Greco, where we snag an outdoor table and share a pressed tomato and mozzarella sandwich, a beer and a Greco Grande and watch the crowds flow by.
In the coming weeks many things will happen, things that will make second degree burns feel secondary, things that will make crashing seem like a wake-up call.: an employee will get word that her father has fallen ill and race to make his hospital bedside in time; a friend of my husband will take a freak fall on his snowboard, suffer stroke and a heart attack in rapid succession and be removed from life support on his 50th birthday. But all of this is still unknown to me. There will be time for tears later, but on this day, the sun is warm and the breeze is mild and my husband sits smiling across from me. Sometimes the small things are the big things.
The air cools noticeably and car headlights are coming on and the neons flicker to life as we start up the motorcycle and head home, yelling to each other in the slipstream for maybe the millionth time how it’s a shame we can’t find a good local stage and hear some music or a reading or comedy. We’re not quite ready to go home yet, but nor do we want to hit a bar or go out to dinner. BUT I’M FIXING THAT I shout to Herb, resting my helmeted chin on his shoulder. And I am – I have made it my business, in fact, to fix it.
DO IT HONEY! he yells over his shoulder and I give a whoop. We’re motoring up Broadway now, the part called Billionaire’s Row. We pass the Getty house, the CEO of Oracele’s house, the house with a giant robot that gets a giant robot erection whenever the Oracle CEO is home (true story! I’d post a picture, but then deny you the pleasure of seeking it out yourself on your next trip to San Francisco, which is akin to New Orleans visitors seeking out Anne Rice’s house in the Garden District). *
My whoop of enthusiasm startles an old couple walking a dog up Lyon Street. They do not recognize us without our dog, Jake, but of course we recognize them – they do not approve of Jake, a chocolate lab who is affable to a fault and insists on approaching their dog for an enthusiastic greeting each time we see them.
“He’s not friendly!” they invariably warn, yanking the leash of the nervous dog, who is meanwhile growling and frantically straining toward Jake (who cares not one bit for showy displays of anxiety and wags in welcome).
The dog barks as the motorcycle sputters past and I give it the thumbs up and for a wonder, his master responds in kind, a smile splitting his face and making it look a million times kinder, something my sweet husband must notice too because he beeps merrily as we sail up and over the hill, turn right, and head due west, the barking fading behind us as we head directly towards the ocean where the sun is setting in a fiery ball, suffusing the entire sky in such a beautiful pink and golden light I find myself wishing like a child that the ride will go on forever.
*However if enough people leave a request in comments, I may post it after all.