I was turning left just as the light was changing from yellow to red. No big deal but I saw a cop on my right waiting to go straight through the light once his side turned green. I glanced in my rear view mirror to watch the cop, looked back in front of me and BOOM! Like magic, a woman in a power wheelchair is RIGHT. IN. FRONT. OF. ME. She slipped between the cars waiting to go through the light and I didn't see her at all when I was turning. Like a motorized bullet, she appeared immediately.
There was nowhere I could go. The snow made it hard to slam on the brakes- I could slide into oncoming traffic or more directly into wheelchair woman. If I turned away from her I would turn directly into oncoming traffic and cause an even bigger accident. All I could do was brake as deftly as possible and turn just enough that I wouldn't hit her head on. When I braked and turned just a little to the left, I popped her right on the back of her chair. And down she went. Hands flying. Into the snow.
Yeah, her face looked like that.
I pull ahead and over to get out of the way of ALL THE ONCOMING TRAFFIC THAT WATCHED ME HIT A WOMAN IN A FUCKING WHEELCHAIR. And yes, morning rush may be small in Schenectady, but it exists. I run back and there were already three cars of people that stopped to help this woman, screaming "Oh my God!" and similar exclamations, and were already discussing who would call 911. BTW, the cop car that made me look behind me? Gone, nowhere to be seen. Me and another guy get the wheelchair upright, out of the snow, and try to move it off the side of the street BUT OH WAIT! I knocked the motor clear off the chair and we have to push and pull that thing just to get it two feet from where it was. Someone helped the woman up, and she WALKED OVER TO HER WHEELCHAIR. You see, she can walk. She has the wheelchair for back pain.
Once she's in the chair, no open wounds are found, and she's coming out of the shock but she's ok to the layman's eye, some people leave to go on their way. Two ladies find out that the woman lives in the apartment building for seniors right on the corner and that her husband is home so they go to get him. No 911 responders have shown up yet so the guy and I are left with the woman. We're asking if she's okay, if there's anything we can do, and as she reaches into her coat she says, "I need to get rid of something. My husband can't know." I'm like, what the fuck is she getting? I'm thinking drugs... pills...? Nope, the woman is an alcoholic and she was on her way to ditch the vodka bottle that she housed the night before.
Come on! I hit a woman with my car, disable her wheelchair, and blow up her spot. The most compassionate thing was for me to take the liquor bottle for her. And put it in my car. On the passenger seat. Because that's the logical thing to do.
A police officer finally shows up. Asks me what happened and for my license and registration. He follows me to my car to assess the damage to my bumper. As he's checking out the car, I open my passenger door and oh shit! Immediately, I dump everything in my glove compartment to cover the EMPTY LIQUOR BOTTLE I WAS HIDING FOR THE WOMAN, find my registration and ID, and hand it over.
At this point the woman has gotten her hands on a cigarette and found her nerves. "SHE HIT ME! I was minding my own business." The police officer was having none of that. Judging the puncture wound on my bumper they knew I wasn't going very fast, judging the snow falling they knew visibility was bad, and judging the fact that she wasn't in the crosswalk they knew she was as at fault as I was.
Her husband shows up in his pajamas. He's waving his cane and yelling "You're going to the hospital!""I don't need to go to the hospital!" "Yes you DO!" Etc, etc. And once the ambulance arrives, they load her in and her husband climbs in with her. She's adamant that I hit HER and she did nothing wrong all the way to the hospital. (I assume. I wasn't in the ambulance.)
I feel horrible.
The police officer takes the witness statements from the two women who ran to get the husband. Before they leave, they ask if I'm okay and tell me there was nothing I could have done. No matter how fast I was going, not matter where I was looking, I was going to collide with that wheelchair. What lovely ladies. We should be friends.
I don't get a ticket. I do get an incident report for my insurance agent. The officer was really nice and right as he hands me the report, I start to crack. I was able to keep it together the whole time until I get in the car in the silence. I decide to call my dad.
He can't understand a thing I'm saying through my ugly crying and he's like, "You need to stop and breath. Are you physically harmed?" No. "Is someone else physically harmed." I don't know. *sob sob sob* There's nothing he can do for me as he lives in South Carolina but he's great in emergencies and for talking sense into an otherwise inconsolable wheelchair taker-outer. He reminded me that I didn't do it on purpose, that of course I'm upset at the possibility of hurting another person, but that all I can do is breathe and hope for the best.
I got my shit together and went to work where I proceeded to cry every time I told someone what happened while they proceeded to laugh. It's okay. The whole thing is ridiculous. I've also gotten really good at telling it, too. This story is my friend Jill's favorite and my book club members demand I tell people who've never heard the story before.
KATHERINE! Why did you wait this long to tell us!? Well, guys- I was waiting until I got a letter from my insurance company that told me no claim was going to be filed against me or nothing was going to be pursued, I don't know. Whatever that is in insurance company talk. And I got that letter a week or so ago. The woman is okay, she probably got a new wheelchair (I hope so anyway, the motor was held on with tape for crying out loud) and hopefully she stopped drinking. It's not likely, but I can hope something good came from this. Besides giving me a great story to tell at parties, that is.