6. All He Did Was Open His Car Door

by H. W. Moss

Thursday evening about 8:30, I was driving east, toward downtown, on Geary Boulevard after eating a quick meal. I was in the right hand lane preparing to turn onto Stanyan when I noticed a bicyclist wearing a flashing red light on his back who had just crossed the intersection.

I was conscious of the flash of red in that amazing way our minds work. A couple thoughts arose at almost the same time including how smart he was to be wearing the device on his back; the light was green for me. No other vehicles were in the intersection ahead of me as I began my turn when, BAM! The driver’s door on a car parked in the very first space on the block opened and the rider flew off his bike.

The door could not have been positioned at a more precise angle nor opened at a more exact instant than to have caught the bicyclist with absolutely no chance for him to react and swerve or alter course. It was an accident of such suddenness I was shocked. I immediately made an illegal U-turn and parked on the corner with the engine running. I got out to see if I could be of any assistance.

The driver of the vehicle who had so inopportunely opened his door was already doing his best to console the injured bicyclist. Perhaps three or four other pedestrians were clustered nearby wearing concerned expressions. The driver said he was sorry, he hadn’t seen the bicyclist and wanted to know if the man, about 40 and fit, wearing a helmet, gloves and dressed to ride a bike, was hurt. The man replied he didn’t know yet. He lay on his back holding a small flashlight in one hand, poking his ribs, trying to catch his breath, attempting to learn the extent of the damage, if any. There were no obvious signs of blood or trauma.

I told them I had seen it happen, saw it straight on. I commented I was watching the red flashing light on the bicyclist’s back which was why I was looking in his direction at all. The rider said he had one on the front too. After a few moments I realized I could be of little help, introduced myself and offered the bicyclist, his name was Steve, my card. He was obviously in the hands of a responsible if remorseful adult who would take care of him. I got in my car and drove off.

I was on Stanyan two traffic lights later traveling at the legal speed limit of 30 mph going through a completely green light with no other vehicles in the intersection when, BAM! A female jogger with a cell phone pressed tight against her right ear jumped out in front of me in the crosswalk completely against the red light. I slammed on the brakes or I would definitely have struck her.

She never looked back, has no idea she very nearly fell beneath my wheels.

An insurance agent phoned me the next day for a recorded conversation about the bicycle accident.

I described the incident, then went on to tell about the jogger. The agent said what a strange night. Maybe I should have gone home after that. I had not. Instead, I had gone to Murio’s where I saw Dano and told him what had just happened.

I told one other story to the insurance adjuster: In the film “Meet Joe Black” (1998), the Devil takes a human body, played by Brad Pitt, in order to visit among us.

The audience is lulled into a sense of serenity during a scene in which Pitt meets a beautiful woman and they have a conversation letting us know they are smitten with each other and may have fallen in love. As she walks away, BAM! Behind and unseen by her, Pitt’s body is blasted into the sky and thrown over the hood of a fast moving vehicle which kills him.

Director Martin Brest was working with exactly those elements of accidental suddenness I experienced Thursday night. However, this was no movie, this was for real.

Life is sudden, and suddenly gone.