Because I’m committed to green urban transport, and/or the fact that it would otherwise take me half an hour to walk to work, I ride a kick scooter. Don’t get the wrong idea, this is not a tiny Razor scooter with wheels fit for a leprechaun’s tricycle, and sparks that fly off the back when you press the brake down, (although my little nephew has one of those sparky-brakes scooters and I thought it was pretty awesome, just quietly.) No! My scooter is a man-scooter. Made of light-weight solid magnesium and engineered for speed and kick-efficiency. It’s so fast it comes with two sets of brakes (not that I’d ever touch the brakes; I’m like one of the street racers in the film Tokyo Drift.)
One morning last week I didn’t need my scooter to get to work, as a mate was picking me up for what we like to call The Wednesday Wakeup, at one of the best coffee shops in Sydney. My scooter is so cool though that my wife even wanted a piece of the action. She decided to ride over the footbridge to Wynyard station and catch the bus to work in order to avoid the mind-numbing daily car commute, at least for one day. If that worked out well she was going to purchase her very own (but girl-size) scooter.
She zipped up her little backpack and set off down the street on her city scooter adventure. Minutes later my friend picked me up and we started to drive across town to the coffee shop. My phone buzzed in my pocket and digging it out I saw Jen’s face on the screen. I immediately had an awful feeling which was about to explode in my stomach. Not that I don’t like it when she calls me … normally.
She reported that she was going quite fast down an exit ramp from the footbridge and swerved too sharply around a pesky pedestrian. The scooter went out from under her feet and she tripped forward and stooped over, and hit a pole smack on the top of her head. A couple of well-meaning tradies stoped to offer assistance. Well, more accurately, they asked her “are you ok?” Looking up at them as blood ran down her face she said, “no … um … not really.” After a few awkward moments they simply asked again “you ok, mate?” The conversation repeated itself a number of times, until not knowing what to do and realising that she would indeed live, they snuck off. I think their emergency-response flow chart when something like:
“Ask victim if ok”
“Is person ok?
YES – leave person alone to fend for themselves.
NO – repeat first question.
STILL NO – Repeat flow chart several times until professional help arrives or you feel like there’s simply nothing more you can do.
By great coincidence, or perhaps something more, my friend and I had just stopped at the precise intersection that positioned us in the closest possible part of the city to where Jen had been rudely bucked off her transport. We drove quickly across the flyover bridge and pulled up in a conveniently placed painted shoulder area. I jumped a safety barrier and ran over to where Jen was sitting in a heap, with a black cardigan pressed up against her eye.
I assessed the damage to her head and found that she had a deep gash under her eye. To this day we don’t know how it got there as she only remembers hitting the top of her head.
If the tradesmen had under-assessed and assisted in the situation I promptly made up for it with a barrage of first aid questions and observations. She appreciated the basic ones such as “does your neck hurt at all” and “did you loose consciousness?” Less appreciated were the beginnings of my neurological questions such as assessing blurred vision and co-ordination. I held up two fingers in a peace sign to see if she could see properly, she said “two fingers and grey in the middle.” I looked behind me to see a grey concrete wall and was relieved. Only to find out days later that she meant her vision was actually grey and blurry. It was probably best I didn’t know what she meant at the time. She was having trouble walking and felt very dizzy so I just picked her up and carried her from where she had fallen to where my friend had gone to park in a safer location.
Looking back, this felt like a scene out of an action movie; carrying the female-in-distress out of a dangerous situation and to safety. All we needed was some huge fireball explosions in the background, and a big four-balls* voice over:
“Only one man can save her now, when others can only ask “are you ok?” he already knows she isn’t, one man against the world, it’s scooter-fall-rescue-husband-man, he doesn’t have a catchy superhero title but when you’re this cool you don’t need one. Coming to cinema’s this fall.”
Now, where were we before voice-over man?
My friend drove us to the Emergency room and as Jen was having her face stitched up it dawned on me that this day could have been astonishingly, tragically worse. The location where she fell is on an elevated bridge next to one of the busiest roads in Sydney. The downhill run is a shared pedestrian/bike path and is a very high cycle traffic area. Not long before she fell off, a cyclist shouted “bike” and flew past her at great speed. It wouldn’t be a hard situation to imagine that a bike pile-up could have happened right on top of her as she blocked the path. She could have also fallen over the barrier into oncoming traffic on her right or over a ten-meter drop to her left.
It’s not pleasant or uplifting to think about, but the cold reality of life being so fragile, unpredictable and out of my control placed its icy grip around my waking hours for days to come. I tried to shake it off but my brain insisted I take courage and face the reality of what my life would be like if my wife was taken from me without warning; without my knowledge and certainly without my permission.
Staring at my wife as she lay next to me in our dark room late at night, I realised I had been taking for granted the amount of colour, grace, warmth, comfort and love that she brings to my existence and that going on without her would be something that resembled life, but not quite. This is an uncomfortable realisation to live with, it would probably have been easier to not have thought it all the way through. As a consolation however, during the time we spend together now, whether we are out to dinner or just watching a movie at home, in the back of my mind I know that it’s special, even sacred.
I didn’t know what I had, until it fell off a scooter.
Who is on your scooter? Go love them.
Or at the very least buy them a helmet.
*Adjective, a term used in the Television and Film industry term describing a very masculine voice over read. Common in action, epic and disaster movies. “The voice over is so manly it has four balls (testicles).”