I was walking up 13th street. The man was crossing 13th in front of me at the cross street of 13th and Hudson. And it was one of those moments that happens so fast that it appears to happen so slow. Where each and every twitch of a movement is given its own lengthy monologue.
It seemed to last forever. But, in all the lengthy foreverness of the suddenness of his fall, there was no time for someone to catch him or to warn him to use his arms to brace himself. There seemed to be no time even for his own instincts to tell him to use his arms, his hands to brace himself. And not his face. Dear God, not your face.
But he did, indeed, use his face. The right side of his face. There was that uncanny sound of face hitting something hard-a weirdly hollow splat. And there was a string of loud obscenities.
I got to him just after a bike rider stopped to assist. The biker asking, "Are you all right," as we both squatted down to help. The man rolled over, saw the biker, grabbed his bike, and shouted a very direct obscenity. You know what, let's just let it all out. The man clutching his face called the biker a "fucker" and then added the word "mother" to it. He launched into a tirade that lifted him to his feet, still clutching the bike (which meant he no longer held his broken face-leaving it to drip blood freely). He claimed the biker was coming at him and that he was dodging the bike.
Now, it is true that the biker was on the sidewalk which is a violation. But, it is also true that if this man was "dodging" the biker, he was dodging him from so far away that it made no sense. And, from what I saw, the man walking made no move that could even be remotely considered an attempt at "dodging" or "evading".
In fact, the single motion that I observed had all the earmarks of being a definite "trip on the curb".
But, the man (let's call him Trip) would not let go of the bike because of the misguided notion that the biker would flee the scene. This theory seemed to lack the memory that the biker had been the first on the scene to stop and help. And, once it became apparent that the end result of the fall was not quite as horrendous as the fall looked or sounded, the scene quickly spiralled into an intense display of irrational reasoning and blame. Trip shouted for someone to call 911-not for an ambulance to mend his busted face, mind you. His face rhythmically dripped little red drops from just above his right eye like a macabre timepiece as Trip shouted for the police.
All present offered to call for an ambulance because you never know with head injuries. This everyone understood. The other thing that everyone understood was that calling the police was an unnecessary waste of time. But, a call was made for both the ambulance and the police.
While waiting, people from viewpoints of all angles of the accident came to make sure Trip was all right. And, then, when Trip inevitably said, "Yeah, I'm fine. Just busted my face because of this asshole," each and every witness followed with a reply of, "No, no. I saw what happened and you fell well before." Trip would say, "You shouldn't ride a bike on the sidewalk!" And, sure, that's true. But, that really wasn't the issue. All the while the biker was calmly saying, "Sir, please let go of my bike." And I tried to offer Trip his glasses which had leapt from his face at just the right time to avoid breaking. None of these requests were recognized. Trip was too busy being irrate.
I felt particularly bad for a sweet older woman who came from across the street to check on Trip. Her accent was European, though I could not place from where exactly. But, when she calmly explained what she saw to Trip, he snapped, "This isn't an international summit. Shut it or leave." It should be noted that the line wasn't said loudly. It wasn't shouted. It was said quite plainly. But, the nastiness that the line rode on was so direct that you could feel the sway turn away from anyone feeling sorry anymore for Trip, the tripping man who couldn't admit that he tripped.
Also amid the hysteria, a guy in an army jacket with one of those Fidel Castro-type hats had arrived on the scene. And I know what you're thinking-"What's he doing here?" Right? I know. But, then, you're thinking, "Yay! Why not? How could things get any crazier?"
And, though the Castro Soldier offered help, he seemed mostly to just want to be involved in the scene. He sided with Trip, for the most part. Not necessarily on what Trip was saying, but definitely on the hysteria that Trip was spewing. Trip was still yelling for someone to call the cops. So, the Castro Soldier pulled out his cell phone, dialed 9-11, and handed the phone to Trip so that he could call more cops onto the scene. I guess for backup? Trip may be the last person in New York City without a cell phone.
Throughout the two minute hysterical conversation with the dispatcher, the Castro Soldier managed to pepper in the phrase, "Tell them you're on someone else's phone," at least five times. And Trip, to his credit, peppered his two minute conversation with exactly as many of these as told. The bike rider calmly noted to the Castro Soldier that he did not try to hit Trip. And, then, the bike rider would calmly ask Trip to let go of his bike. This is where you could tell the Castro Soldier did not necessarily have a side (beyond siding with hysteria, in general) because he turned to the bike rider and said, very helpfully, "Calm down, man. If you talk like that, the cops will throw you in jail. I know cops, man. It doesn't matter what the story is, you talk like that, they'll arrest you." Somehow the Castro Soldier has missed the calmness of the bike rider's request. The Castro Soldier, then, turned to Trip still talking to the dispatcher. Telling Trip that he had to go, the Castro Soldier added another request that Trip tell the dispatcher he was on someone else's phone. Trip obliged, adding that the man with the phone had to go and the conversation wrapped up as the Castro Soldier left the scene as randomly as he had arrived.
The ambulance finally arrived and Trip said that he would not let go of the bike until the police arrived. They did. Some time later. By that time, the blood had stopped dripping from Trip's head. The ambulance driver had managed to convince Trip to let go of the bike and, instead, apply pressure to his head with an icepack. I had stayed along with another witness because the biker had looked at us and mouthed the pleaful words, "will you please stay?" So, we stayed.
The police explained to Trip that they could not file a report because they had not seen what had happened and that was a necessity. Trip tried to explain his version of the law and told both police officers that they did not know this law. The police officers admitted that and also told Trip that the reason they didn't know Trip's law is that it was not a law. Well, not in the city of New York. They could issue a warning to the biker for riding on the sidewalk and that was it.
So, they took the biker's information down and checked his record, yada yada. Trip, meanwhile, asked me and the other bystander what we had seen. We told him that we had seen him fall and that it had nothing to do with the bike rider on the sidewalk, even if it was wrong for him to be riding on the sidewalk. All this was said very calmly. And Trip, to his credit, took a breath and it looked to have been a breath of clarity. He looked to have inhaled what was said and it looked like he was going to exhale the understanding that he was wrong. That he could see that he had just tripped.
For a moment, it looked like it would all be fine. He said, "Okay." And, then, promptly turned around and re-spewed his tale of being the victim of a homicidal bike rider.
In the end, the bike rider was let go and, so, we the witnesses left, too. Trip stayed to fight the fight of his life.
It is my hope that Trip eventually got in the ambulance or at least sought some medical attention and that he calmed down enough to forgive the bike rider who did nothing wrong to him. Not for the bike rider's sake. But, for his own.
I understand it was a hard fall and an injury that resulted from a silly mistake and that is hard to digest. It's much easier to swallow if you have someone to blame. And, in Trip's case, he just wanted someone to blame beyond physics and gravity. because, let's face it: though responsible and law-abiding, neither physics nor gravity are a person. Therefore, you can not grab their bike. You can not press charges against them. You have to suck it up and accept the accident as an accident. Accept the stumble as a stumble that turned into a face plant because you did not brace yourself with something other than your face and get your concussion looked at by medical professionals.
Originally Posted On Facebook.