Allister was walking up 13th street. The man was crossing 13th in front of him (You know, at the cross street of 13th and Hudson). And it was one of those moments that happened so fast that it appeared to have happened so slow. Where each and every twitch of a movement are given their own lengthy monologue.
It seemed to last forever. But, in all the lengthy foreverness of the suddenness of the man’s 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 his 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.
Allister got to him just after a bicycle rider stopped to assist. The biker asked, "Are you all right," as he and Allister both squatted down to help. The tripping man rolled over, saw the biker, grabbed his bicycle, and shouted a very direct obscenity. The tripping man clutched his face and launched into a tirade that lifted him to his feet and brought both hands in a vice-like grip on the bike (which meant the tripping man 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 and that was the meaning of the fall.
Now, it was true that the biker was riding on the sidewalk and that was certainly frowned upon (if not, an outright violation). But, it is also true that if the tripping man was "dodging" the biker, he was dodging him from so far away that it made no sense. And, from what Allister saw, the tripping man made no move that could even be remotely considered an attempt at "dodging" or "evading".
In fact, the single motion that Allister 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. That 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 spiraled into an intense display of irrational reasoning and blame. Trip shouted for a telelphone, shouted for someone to make an emergency phonecall-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 someone to call the police.
All present offered to call for an ambulance because, “you never know with head injuries.” That, everyone understood. The other thing that everyone understood was that calling the police was an unnecessary waste of time. But, a call was made from an overlooking apartment 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 bastard," 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 was true. But, that really was not the issue. All the while the biker calmly said, "Sir, please let go of my bike." And Allister tried to offer Trip back his glasses-which had leapt from Trip’s face at just the right time to avoid breaking. None of those requests were recognized. Trip was too busy being irate.
Allister felt particularly bad for a sweet older woman who came from across the street to check on Trip. Her accent was European, though Allister could not place from where exactly. And, when she calmly explained what she saw to Trip, he snapped, "This isn't an international summit. Shut it or leave." Now, it should be noted that Trip’s line was not said loudly. It was not shouted. It was said quite plainly. But, the nastiness that the line rode on was so direct that Allister could feel the sway turn away from anyone still feeling sorry for Trip, the tripping man who could not admit that he tripped.
Also, amid the hysteria, a guy in a tattered and faded army jacket arrived on the scene. He had been leaving his apartment building from across the street, had missed the accident, but now that hysteria was happening, he felt it only made sense to join in. He sided with Trip, for the most part. Not necessarily on what Trip said, but definitely on the hysteria that Trip spewed. Trip still yelled for someone to call the cops. And the tattered soldier offered his apartment’s phone across the street to call more cops onto the scene. Allister guessed for backup?
But, the tattered soldier would not place the call. “Oh, no,” he said, “I do not talk to the cops.” So, Trip crossed the street and placed the call.
Well…Trip crossed the street, dragging the bicycle with him with the biker still holding on. And Allister followed because the biker had looked at him early on and mouthed the pleaful words, "will you please stay?" So, he stayed and he followed the madness.
Throughout the two minute hysterical conversation with the operator at the police station, the tattered 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 those as told. The bike rider calmly noted to the tattered solider that he did not try to hit Trip. And, then, the bike rider would calmly ask Trip to let go of his bike. That was when Allister could tell that the tattered 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, sir. If you talk like that, the cops will throw you in jail. I know cops. I do. And It doesn't matter what the story is, you talk like that, they'll arrest you." Somehow the tattered soldier missed the calmness of the bike rider's request. The tattered soldier, then, turned to Trip still talking to the operator. “Hey, hey, I gotta go,” he told Trip, adding in one final request for trip Trip tell the operator he was on someone else's telephone. Trip obliged, even adding that the resident who had let him borrow the phone had to go and the conversation wrapped up as the tattered soldier walked them outside his building, locked his front door, walked down the street, and 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. And 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 a bandage.
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 that law. The police officers admitted this and also told Trip that the reason they did not know Trip's law was that it was not a law. Well, not in the that city. 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. Trip, meanwhile, asked Allister what he had seen. Allister told him that he had seen Trip 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 that 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 as if 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. Trip even 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, Allister left, too. Trip, though, stayed to fight the fight of his life.
It was always Allister’s 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 Trip’s own sake.
Allister, you see, understood that it had been a hard fall and an injury that resulted from a silly mistake and that was hard to digest. It was much easier to swallow if you had 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.