“I’m so sorry,” she said, “I was looking at my shoes.”
That’s what she said, after rear-ending me while I was law-abidingly stopped at a red light — as I rode home from my nearly-new 600cc scooter’s *very* *first* service.
Your shoes?? Really? My bike is a hood ornament because of your footwear??
American roadways offer a host of enchanting visages upon which to gaze: rolling hillsides, quaint towns, meandering paths along the ocean or riversides. Sometimes, (you know, occasionally) drivers might even be tempted to pay attention to other cars or — God forbid — scooterist and motorcyclists. But this lady thought her footwear should command her utmost attention.
Alas, if only the back end of my BMW had piqued La Femme de Footwear’s interest before I became one with her Toyota…
There was no squealing screech of brakes (why stop when you’re looking at your feet?). I did however catch a glipse of her in my sideview mirror moments before impact.
“Oh my God…that car’s not going to stop…”
Followed quickly by: “Oh my God…that car actually just hit me…”
[And now, a brief discussion of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity:]
In the early 1900s, dissatisfied with Newtonian physics, Albert Einstein engaged in a series of thought experiments that considered how someone traveling near the speed of light and a separate, third-party observer might experience the expansion (i.e., slowing) of time. For his efforts, Einstein received the Nobel prize in Physics in 1921.
Last Wednesday, while having no issue with Sir Isaac Newton whatsoever, I *personally* experienced the relative slowing and telescoping of time as I saw Shoe Lady’s Toyota coming at me in my sideview mirror. (I am hopeful that the Nobel Prize committee will be contacting me soon to discuss my significant contribution to theoretical physics.)
[And thus concludes our brief discussion of space-time and special relativity.]
Meanwhile, back at the red light, the force of the impact had been sufficient to impale the tail end of my bike into the Toyota’s grill. So, when Shoe-Looking-At-Lady threw it in reverse, she pulled me along. The combined force of my throttle and her reverse managed to remove her 600cc hood ornament.
While she was explaining how her footwear figured into recent events, I was surveying the damage she’d caused. The top case mount was snapped to pieces and the top case that had been added only an hour before was strewn into the street. The left turn signal, brake light, license plate holder, and plate light were smashed to hell. And, as I would eventually learn, the seat locking mechanism had been jammed shut by the force of the blow.
And — if you’re wondering — her shoes were completely unremarkable and not-at-all-worthy-of-being-stared-at-while-operating-a-motor-vehicle.
As I peeled off my helmet, the comedy of errors truly began.
“Oh my God,” Shoe-Lady exclaimed, “you’re a girl? I hit a girl?!?”
“Do you have insurance?” I asked.
“Yes.” she said, and handed me her Medicare card.
After pausing a split second to confirm in my own head that Medicare hadn’t recently begun offering senior citizens automobile liability coverage, I pointed out that she had handed me her Medicare card.
(There was a pause.)
“Do you have CAR insurance? Insurance for the CAR that you HIT me with because you were looking at your SHOES?”
After a few seconds of thumbing through her wallet, Lady Shoe-Gazer suggested that the insurance information must be at home and could she drive home to fetch it.
“No. No you cannot.”
Then she noted — with an odd mixture of pride and glee — that I was her first automobile accident ever!
(Not sharing her enthusiasm, I instead wondered to myself, “Are you an actor? You can’t really be this stupid.”)
Her Eyes Were Watching Shoes then said she needed to leave because she was late for her dentist appointment.
“I think you missed your dentist appointment when your front grill married my bike.”
She then suggested that I simply ride home. When I pointed at the top case (which was packed with stuff) that lay in the street and asked her where I was supposed to put that, she helpfully suggested that I stick it between my legs (or something).
She then asked why I couldn’t just drive my car home the rest of the way (because I clearly would have thought ahead to park a spare vehicle nearby in the event I was rear-ended).
“This IS my car. You HIT my ‘car.'”
Then she got crabby and pointed out that her Toyota’s grill had been damaged too.
“Yes,” I acknowledged, “because you rear-ended me while I was lawfully stopped for a red light, because — as you admitted — you were LOOKING AT YOUR SHOES!!!!!!!!!”
(This is when two cops thankfully drove by and pulled over.)
It was when the officers asked me for my proof of insurance and registration that I discovered the seat was jammed shut.
“Officer, I can’t give you my registration.”
“Why not, Ma’am?”
“It’s in the bike.”
“The seat is jammed shut from the impact — of her hitting me while she was LOOKING AT HER SHOES.”
“Are you sure you’re turning the key the right way?”
Not believing that I really did know how to unlatch my own seat cover, the officer fiddled with it.
(The gas tank valve popped open. He asked if it was the seat latch.)
As I sobbed, the officer encouraged me to calm down and look at the bright side (i.e., not being dead), as accidents happen.
[And now, a brief discussion of Philosophy:]
Yes. Accidents happen. If a bolt of lightning had frightened a rabid puma, prompting it to jump into the lady’s Totoya and maul her as she approached the red light, thus causing her to temporarily lose control of her vehicle as she attempted to fend off the crazed feline — fine, that would have been an ‘accident.’ (Potentially a preventable one, if she had been driving with her windows closed.) Rear-ending someone because you are looking at your shoes is not an event that happens by chance, without apparent or deliberate cause (i.e., not an accident). Instead, rear-ending someone is the foreseeable result of approaching a red light while allowing your gaze and attention to be captivated by something other than What The Hell Is Going On Right In Front Of You. Some might even argue that deliberate study of What The Hell Is Going On Right In Front Of You is the first step towards solving many of the world’s problems.
[Thus concludes our brief discussion of Philosophy.]
Meanwhile, Shoe Gazer was still talking about her erstwhile dentist appointment, while I was desperately loooking for melting clocks, phones made of lobsters, or any other evidence that my life had temporarily been replaced by a surrealist fantasy and none of this was actually happening.
“I really am sorry that I was looking at my shoes,” she offered again.
“Dammit,” I thought, “not a temporary surrealist fantasy. She’s still here.”
And I picked up my non-lobster phone to call for a tow and a lift home.