Picture my Sunday morning: I set out on my trusty bicycle facing a crisp and relatively bright (considering the lateness of the season) ride from Somerville to Jamaica Plain around eight thirty in the morning. I've grown used to the six miles, enjoying the same commute six or even seven times each week.
I don't typically encounter any variety of trouble any more noteworthy than the standard rage-addled motorists behaving selfishly and foolishly with their two-ton death machines that any road-user encounters routinely on a daily basis. This especially beautiful autumn day, however, was to be a somewhat of an exception.
Over the river and through the...congested rush-hour traffic of downtown Boston, I meandered happily along. I would not say I was well-rested, but I certainly had my awareness about me and I am a very careful cyclist in general.
As my waxy readers are well aware, I am an enthusiastic proponent of safe and responsible cycling, which gives me an edge over my more foolhardy and reckless cyclist brethren as far as staying alive on the streets are concerned.
However, as I mentioned, this was to be a rather special day; there are some traffic events that you simply cannot quite hold an influence over. To my surprise, I was about to discover one.
Just past the Mass Ave T stop, where the sharrows turn into an actual bike lane, I found myself pedaling merrily along as a car overtook me rather closely on my left. As a cyclist who actively avoids getting doored, I tend to stay to the left side of the bike lane when riding past an endless stretch of parked cars (which one may easily find at any time of day on this particular portion of Mass Ave). For this reason, it's not that unusual for me to find cars passing me on the left within arm's reach.
Unfortunately, as this particularly gifted motorist almost finished passing me, they inexplicably swerved to the right--directly into the bike lane. They successfully rammed into the rather large rack on the front of my bicycle with the rear-end of their car, and I instantly went down. Hard.
As I fell to the pavement, I suppose my main concern was trying to fall in as reasonable a manner as I could manage without seriously hurting myself. I wouldn't say I did a great job, but I certainly survived; I think that is testament to my effort, if nothing else.
This effort, however, distracted me from noticing the license plate of the car--as they drove away without even stopping to see if I was dead or alive. Fortunately for me, the cars behind me managed to stop; otherwise it is not likely I would not be writing these waxy words you see before you.
A kind onlooker from the sidewalk rushed between the parked cars on the side of the road to help me to my feet, and asked the obligatory, "Are you okay?" I certainly had no idea at the time, as I was a bit rattled. I had fallen on my knee pretty hard and it was throbbing like a mother, but naturally I claimed I was fine.
She helped me walk my freshly-mangled bicycle to the sidewalk as I limped beside her, and asked if she should call an ambulance. I told her "No, no...I've got my phone right here. I'm fine." I pulled it out of my pocket and began to dial; she eventually walked away.
My leg felt pretty terrible, but there was no way in hell I was getting inside an ambulance.
I was actually calling my workplace as she walked away, and when they picked up I described why I just wasn't in a good position to make it in today. They told me since I was in an accident and was hurt, I needed a doctor's note claiming I was able to work without restrictions before I could return.
As I don't have a doctor (I know, I know: shame on me), I would have to take a trip to the dreaded ER.
I called my friend Josh, who agreed to collect my mangled bicycle and self with a vehicle we would both fit inside. He gave me a lift home, where I dropped off the misshapen ride, and onward we ventured to the hospital.
The staff at the hospital was somewhat accommodating for the most part, ushering me in right away and getting me into an especially ugly hospital gown to ensure my humiliation would be rather thorough. Josh waited patiently in the chair next to my hospital bed, where I sat somewhat anxiously. Hospitals give me anxiety.
The doctor finally joined us, and it was evident he was pissed off about something before he even stepped foot in the room. He rifled off a few routine questions regarding what happened in a somewhat irritated manner before finally asking the clincher: "Were you wearing a helmet?"
As my waxy readership is aware, I choose not to wear a helmet while cycling. Naturally, I answered his question: "No."
"You were not wearing a helmet?!" the doctor exclaimed, somewhat perturbed.
"No, I wasn't. I don't wear a helmet."
"You don't wear a helmet?!"
"You see, it's my knee that's actually injured," I offered, pointing toward the affected knee. "Not my head. I didn't hit my head. My head is fine."
"But you weren't wearing a helmet?"
At this point, the pissed-off-for-no-discernible-reason doctor was aggravating me. He was getting kind of annoying, and I didn't feel like going into all the reasons I have for not wearing a helmet.
"No, I wasn't wearing a stupid helmet. I don't see how that's a relevant question," I remarked, pointing again to my knee.
"You don't see how it's a relevant question?!" my doctor raged. He was clearly infuriated by my statement somehow. He shouted on for a while, and told me if I didn't change my tone he would call security and have me escorted from the building.
"Listen, dude," I said, trying to figure out if this asshole was worth my time or not, "I need a doctor's note that says I can return to work 'without restrictions'. Are you willing to write the note for me or not?"
"I will not write the note!" he exclaimed. "I'm calling security now! You're outta here!"
My friend Josh, observing the whole interaction, simply shook his head and waited as I pulled off the fantastically ugly hospital gown and put my normal clothes back on, grimacing in pain the whole while with my somewhat busted body parts that the hospital chose not to even examine because of a helmet argument.
As if like clockwork, two rent-a-cops showed up the moment I had my shoelaces tied and walked Josh and I out of the hospital to the tune of Josh telling me, "Why didn't you just tell him you were wearing a helmet? Why does everything have to be a public service announcement with you?"
The next day, I visited another hospital to get the doctor's note. The woman at reception asked me a bunch of questions about where I live and blah blah blah, and "Were you wearing a bicycle helmet?"
"I sure was," I said.
They brought me into a patient room were a nurse asked me what happened, am I okay, what is hurting, and "Were you wearing a helmet?"
"I sure was."
The doctor finally came in. He pressed on my knee here and there, and pressed on my back, and listened to his stethoscope as I took deep breaths for what seemed like forever. Finally, he asked me: "Were you wearing a helmet?"
"I sure was, sir."
A second nurse came in and joined the doctor (I have no idea why), and looked me over. She asked a few questions I had already answered, and then pulled the trump card: "Were you wearing a helmet?"
"I sure was."
"Oh, good thing...good thing."
"Yes ma'am; I never leave home without it."
A few minutes later, I had my doctor's note, and I've been working happily since.
I still have to build a new wheel for my bike (the rim is in the mail), but I have a "number two" I've been riding and that'll be just fine for now.
What's the moral of the story? If nothing else, take away this: as always, never trust the healthcare industry with anything, ever. Ever. Ever.
You may even have to lie to get the treatment you deserve. As a general rule of thumb, any seemingly innocuous question they might ask that has nothing to do with anything should be answered with whatever answer you suspect they might prefer. Otherwise, they may just go ahead and call security to have you extracted from the hospital.
If the doctor asks you, "Do you wear a completely worthless piece of Styrofoam on your head while you ride?" he only wants to hear one answer. Give it to him please; otherwise he may neglect to look at the knee you may have seriously injured.
Thanks for reading, waxy readers. Try to be healthy, and certainly try to be safe out there. Take it from me: there is no mercy from the cold and clueless world that surrounds us, and your doctor likely has no idea what you are talking about.
Thanks for tuning in, waxy readers, and see you next Tuesday!