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The Strange Case of the Motorcycle Accident

Volume 61: Sun August 14, 2005

Regarding the misadventures of a wreckless motorcyclist who lived to tell his tale

So there I was, about 9:30 this evening, working away on Atlas Quest. The stars were twinkling, the street lights too for that matter, through Amanda's second floor window. Then I heard it. SCREEACH! CRAASH! Then silence. An accident!

Amanda lives at the bottom of a very large, very steep hill. Accidents are rather common, truth-be-told, and daredevils are always rushing down this hill way too fast. When roads are wet, cars often can't make the steep grade and the tires squeal as the car tries to chug up the hill. More than once I've seen them end up reversing back down the hill in order to find another route to their destination. From the sounds of it, the hill had claimed yet another victim of careless driving.

I looked out the window to see what I could see. Nothing out of the ordinary was immediately apparent, but I saw a guy out on the sidewalk below me who turned around suddenly saying something to the effect of, "What the fuck?!" Clearly, I needed to see more.

I dashed off to the other room, put on a light jacket and my world-famous Waldies camp shoes from my Appalachian Trail days and dashed outside. Already, several neighbors had already come out and were converging on the scene on the accident.

At first, I only noticed what looked like a car, parked on the side of the road, with its back end jacked up and a red light underneath. As I got closer, I could see what had happened. A motorcycle was wedged under the back end of the car! The red light I saw was the tail light, and the back tires of the car was hanging a good two or three inches above the ground. I grew queasy at the thought that someone might have actually been on the motorcycle. Accidents are common on this hill, but I had yet to see or even hear of a fatality as a result, but if someone was on that motorcycle when it went under the car, they were dead, no two ways about it.

And frankly, I was kind of nervous at the idea of looking under the car better to see if there was in fact a body underneath it. But then I heard some of the other neighbors talking to each other and telling what they saw. The driver of the motorcycle, it seemed, had jumped off the motorcycle before slamming into the car. More interestingly, there were apparently four motorcyclists, and the crash victim rode off with one of his friends! It was a hit and run!

One man with a cell phone had dialed 911 and I overheard him saying that they needed a cop out there immediately and described the motorcycle under the car and the perpetrator riding off with a friend. Within a couple of minutes, sirens could be heard in the background, quickly growing louder.

It was a firetruck. They pulled up next to the accident, put orange cones across the road, and immediately looked under the car where the motorcycle driver would have been. Guess they had to double check even though they were told the driver had taken off already. We started wondering if the motorcycle was stolen. After all, if the driver owned the motorcycle, he'd be pretty stupid to run. The license plate was still there to identify him!

A few minutes later, a big, African American man smoking a cigar walked up. The motorcycle driver. The elbow of his jacket had a huge hole in it where he skinned it when he jumped off the crashing motorcycle, and his pants were torn up pretty well too. He walks up to his motorcycle and starts waving around his cigar loudly complaining that there was no sign to warn him of the hill.

The firefighters demanded he get away from the car and motorcycle—it was leaking gas and a lit cigar had no business being anywhere near it.

"Fuck that! There should be a warning sign at the top of that hill! I'm fucking pissed!"

He was cussing real good, and the firefighters clearly didn't give a rats rear about any signs. They just wanted to get his cigar away from the fuel spreading across the asphalt.

They finally got him to the other side of the road, not far from where I was standing taking in the scene. Once his cigar was safely away from the accident, they started to examine him for injuries. I was probably standing 20 feet away and got a rather good look at them. One hand and arm were bleeding, some pretty impressive bruises, and he'd definitely be needing a new set of clothes.

They patched him up a bit, but he refused to sit down on the grounds that his ass hurt too much. Then he blew more cigar smoke into the air and cussed the lack of signage some more.

After the brief examination, the one firefighter told him he was one hell of a lucky son-of-a-bitch. He should be dancing twirls that he was lucky to be alive at all much less with barely a scratch to show for it.

"Do I look happy?! My motorcycle's fucking ruined! Goddamn hill. Fuck!"

The firefighter asked the man if he was planning to go to a hospital, and suggested that he should. Some of those cuts really should be attended to. Then the firefighter looked at the helmet with barely a scratch on it and mentioned that at least he didn't appear to hit his head very hard and, "You're so damn lucky you're alive right now!"

Then he asked, as if in passing, "So where did you go immediately after the accident?" (The firefighters, keep in mind, arrived before the driver came back to the scene, so they knew darned well he had run off to some other location for a while.)

If the black man answered, I didn't hear the answer, but I'm pretty sure the black man started cussing about the signage again. A police cruiser pulled up at about this time and a cop swaggered out.

"He's going to have some questions for you," the fireman told the motorcycle driver.

The cop took a quick look at the motorcycle, and a fireman pointed to the driver without saying a word. The cop walked over to the man asking if he was the driver of the motorcycle.

When the man said he was, the cop asked what happened. I had no trouble listening in given my excellent vantage point—all the other gawkers were still on the other side of the road where the accident had happened so I was largely by myself listening to the questioning.

He explained in more detail what happened. He was driving along the road at 25 mph, lost control of the motorcycle, and jumped off before it hit the car. He wasn't from around the area and didn't know it was such a steep hill and there was no sign warning him it was there.

I was kind of skeptical about that 25 mph comment. That motorcycle was wedged under the car in a BIG way, and it just didn't seem conceivable it could have done that if he had only been traveling at 25 mph. I'm thinking he saw the big hill and thought it would be a lot of fun to gun it down the hill. I don't know why he lost control, but had he been going the speed limit and driving safely and responsibly, he should have had no trouble controlling his motorcycle. It not like the roads were even wet!

Listening to the neighbors, I could hear some of them discussing why the driver came back. He fled the scene, then came back minutes later. And I was kind of wondering that myself. The only theory I could think of was if he man had something illegal on him—drugs or weapons or something—and knew he had to ditch the incriminating evidence before the authorities arrived. That done, he came back to face the music. I don't know if this really happened or not, but I can't think of any other logical reason for his suspicious activities.

Finally the ambulance pulled up. The paramedics checked out the accident victim, slapped a neck brace around his neck, then wheeled him off to the ambulance to be whisked off to a hospital of his choice. (I know this, because I heard a firefighter asking him which hospital he preferred to go to.)

A firefighter waved to the ambulance driver. "Hey, Ken! Long time no see!"

A reunion. How nice. =) They swapped pleasantries where I learned that firefighter was working the A-shift—whatever that meant. *shrug* Sounded greek to me.

The cop took some photos of the accident and a figherfighter pulled out a shovel.

What the heck is that for?! A shovel?

He started digging some of the dirt from the grass lining the sidewalk and throwing it on the spilled fuel in the gutter. A neighbor pulled out a bag of something—didn't quite catch what it was—that the firefighters then started throwing on the spilled fuel. The cop talked to a couple of witnesses, then went back to his patrol car to radio in stuff and do whatever else cops do in such a situation.

After another ten minutes or so, the cop gets out and walks directly up to me.

"Are you a witness?"

"No, I just heard the accident then came out to look."

"Did you see the driver when you got here?"

"No, I didn't. He didn't appear until several minutes after I arrived."

"Thanks." Then he walked off back to his car.

Clearly, the cop wanted to know about where the motorcycle driver went immediately after the accident. Another vehicle, firefighters, I think, though it was dark and they were far away, were walking around on the steep hill with flashlights—probably looking for evidence about what happened. Skid marks (either from tires when you apply the breaks or from the motorcycle itself after it fell on its side) probably.

At this point, there was a lot of standing around and nothing much seemed to be happening. Should I stay or should I go? Well, the firefighters and cop were still there so I figured I'd wait them out and see what happened. I was kind of curious how they were going to get that motorcycle out from under the car. I heard one firefighter suggest driving the car off of it, which I hope was a joke because that seemed like a pretty bad idea to me. Fortunately, they didn't try that idea.

During this 'quiet period' we heard tires squeal. A car had just come over the hill—clearly a bit faster than he should have—and slammed on his breaks when he saw all the flashing lights at the bottom of the hill. There's a stop sign at the bottom of the hill, but these hooligans swerved to the right and glided right through the stop. Is that really the most intelligent thing to do when there's a cop car sitting not more than 50 feet away?

In any case, the cop was more interested in the accident and the car drove off without incident. One neighbor loudly complained about that happening all the time! Every HOUR! Wreckless drivers gunning down the hill at ridiculous speeds.

A firefighter walked over to the cop sitting in his car and asked if the motorcycle was stolen. Nope, it was driver's motorcycle. He went back and told the other firefighters that fact and one of them wondered aloud why he bothered to come back after he fled the scene. I'm not sure any of them considered my theory about wanting to dump something illegal before coming back to face the music, but it was just a theory with no proof anyhow, and had there been proof, the driver would have already gotten rid of it when he first ran. Presumably, at least. =)

The tow truck driver finally arrived and checked out the scene. He looked like the stereotype tow truck driver you'd see in a movie. Overweight belly bulging from the T-shirt. The firefighters warned him about the leaking fuel and he asked if it was from the car or the motorcycle. "Don't know yet."

This is the sign that didn't exist =)

The tow truck driver hooked up a heavy chain to the motorcycle, attached it to a pulley on the truck, and tried to pull the motorcycle out from under the car. I had my doubts that it would work—the motorcycle was wedged WAY under the car. The tow truck inched forward, and the motorcycle rubbed loudly against the ground pulling the car with it. Nope, that wouldn't work.

The tow truck driver got out and took off the chain from the motorcycle and reattached it to the car instead, lifting the car up over the motorcycle. Then him and a couple of firefighters dragged the motorcycle out from under it. Once the motorcycle was clear, the car was dropped back to the ground and the tow truck driver hooked up the motorcycle to the back of the tow truck.

The cop came out again and took some more pictures of the motorcycle now that it was out from under the car, then the tow truck driver hauled it away.

Then everyone up and left. The firefighters left while the cop was giving the tow truck driver some paperwork. Then the tow truck driver and cop left. Then all of the neighbors started to leave.

I stood up (I sat down earlier, tired of standing all night long) and one of the neighbors approached me asking what had happened. I explained about the motorcycle coming down the hill, losing control, and sliding under the car. Then he told me he just got there and he owned the house whose fence I was leaning against and about a year ago a car had crashed through it.

"Yeah, I saw that accident too! Tore up your fence and yard real good!"

And he explained he had just arrived and saw all the flashing lights and his first thought was, "Please, don't let it be my house again!"

I told him he was good to go this time around, but I warned him against parking his car on the side of the street there at the base of the hill.

"Heck no! I know better than that!"

So he was quite relieved to learn he had suffered no property damage this time around. Though I'm sure the folks who owned the car that crushed the motorcycle didn't feel the same! I said goodbye to the house owner and walked back to Amanda's apartment while the car owner was going around her car checking that the doors were still shut tight. Or something. It looked like she was trying to push all of the doors closed as if they had jiggled open from the accident.

Oh, in case you are wondering—there is a sign at the top of the hill warning about the steep hill. It's just hard to see when you're driving past it at fifty miles per hour. ;o)

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