If you’ve ever witnessed a car accident (or have been in one), you know that it sticks with you for a while. It doesn’t have to be horrible to replay over and over in your mind; car accidents, while an everyday occurrence, aren’t part of most people’s everyday. So, it makes sense that I would still be thinking about the accident I saw a couple of days ago. The accident itself wasn’t so bad, but it was memorable, and I can't seem to shake it.
Let me set the scene for you. It was mid-morning, and I was stopped at a red light that was barely a mile from my neighborhood, waiting to make a left turn. As I sat there, a pickup truck with a lawn mower in the flat bed approached the green light on the cross street, and without slowing down, careened left through the intersection. I thought the driver was going a bit fast, but whatever. People do stupid shit all the time.
Then things took an interesting turn.
As the truck went past me, a man fell out of the truck and onto the pavement, rolling over a few times before he stopped. The truck continued on its way until it slammed into the thick trunk of a Bradford pear tree that probably reached its life expectancy at that very moment. The sound of pickup truck grill against hard wood is not a pleasant thing to witness. Neither is watching a man literally hit the road.
I stared at the man, trying to determine where he came from. Was he riding in the back of the truck with the mower? It’s not unheard of around these parts. I looked at the truck and noticed the driver door was wide open. No one else was standing around. The man on the street had to be the driver.
As I sat there, trying to make sense of what I had seen, the man suddenly got up on his feet. Well, foot. He held a prosthetic leg in his hand. Then, holding the leg up high in the air like a flag, he hopped over to the truck.
At this point, a woman got out of the passenger side of the truck, holding her forehead. The one-legged man started yelling at her. She was hunched over but walking, so she seemed as well to be alright.
My light was still red.
I am usually a good helper, but honestly, when something unexpected like a car accident or someone falling on volcanic rocks in a lava field, I freeze up. I suddenly lose any ability to process information and do anything. I just sat there, paralyzed. In my defense, I had just left my therapist’s office, so I was a bit preoccupied with my own shit at that moment and not exactly on top of my game.
Luckily, plenty of other people with better fight or flight reactions had also witnessed the one-truck accident. A car stopped on the road next to the truck, and four older men dashed out of it to offer assistance. Meanwhile, a man that was two cars behind me at the red light got out of his vehicle and stood on the road divider, calling 9-1-1 to report it. I was hardly the only witness, and multiple good Samaritans had already launched into action.
When the light turned green, I made my left turn and drove home. I kind of wish I could have driven back to my therapist's office. Instead, I went inside and told my husband, “I just saw a car accident.”
He wanted the details, and I told him that a man fell out of a truck and lost his leg. Then I had to explain that it wasn’t his real leg. Then I had to clarify that it was his leg, but it was a fake leg, and he lost it during the fall, but that I had no idea what happened to his original leg, only that he started and finished the accident with one real leg and one fake leg, but only one was working at the time. I probably needed to do a better job of explaining, but it pretty much happened like that. It was just hard to put into words.
We surmised that his prosthetic limb must have detached somehow while he was driving, and knowing he lost control of truck, he bailed out while he could. Clearly, he did not have a seat belt to hold him back from his stunt man move. He also didn’t seem too concerned about that poor woman in the passenger seat with the head injury. Again, fight or flight, am I right?
But he had to be okay, didn’t he? I mean, he could walk, er, hop, right away. It was almost as if he knew exactly what to do, as if it had happened before.
I still feel a tad guilty for not stopping to help. I know at least two friends who are much better people than I who would have never hesitated to get involved. Not me. I assume I will just be in the way, and then I count on the kindness of others to step up. I assume if I were the only one who saw an accident, I would definitely stay and do the right thing. But how many people need to? Two? Four? All of us? At some point, I figure, too many cooks spoil the soup.