A very bad day at the corner of Park and Speedway

It's not very often that a man gets to drive his adult son to school, so the day started off kinda strangely and then went from there.

The day before, Alexander had his tonsils removed. A lot of doctors these days recommend that they be left in, perchance to fight infection. But Alexander's tonsils had grown to the size where they sometimes restricted his breathing. His tonsils were huge; I asked the doctor if we could keep them, let them harden and then use them for a round of miniature golf. (No, the doc said; they have to go off to pathology, where, presumably, they're made into cufflinks and sold in Third World countries.)

Alexander actually had them removed at around 11:30 a.m. on Monday and then went to his 2 p.m. class. Since he was taking pain medication, he couldn't drive and needed a ride. (I never missed a day of school from kindergarten through the end of college, and Alexander hasn't, either. My daughter, Darlene, missed two days in the second-grade when she had chicken pox, so Alexander and I call her "the slacker.")

The next morning, Tuesday, April 5, Alexander had a 9:30 class, so I dropped him off at the UA Cesar Chavez Building and then drove to the Circle K on Park Avenue and Speedway Boulevard to get a soda. I got the drink and a copy of the Phoenix newspaper, and went back outside. Just then, I saw a guy I knew, and I headed toward the gas pumps to say hello.

It was at that moment that I heard the screeching of the tires from the big Mercury Marquis that was heading west on Speedway. Then, in quick succession, I heard the Marquis plow into the car that was making a left turn onto northbound Park, and then glance off a car that was stopped on southbound Park.

I didn't actually hear the Marquis hit the bicyclist, but I did look up in time to see the cyclist go flying through the air and land with a thud on the other side of the gas pump. After hitting the cyclist, the Marquis kept on coming, crashing over the curb, through the small bushes and then onto the Circle K property. The collision with the curb had bowed the tires outward, and the friction of the undercarriage on the ground quickly decelerated the car to a halt. (For the tiniest split second, I was afraid that it was going to come to rest atop the cyclist, but it ended up about 10 to 12 feet away.)

I went around the pumps to the cyclist, and it didn't look good. He was lying face-down amid a growing pool of blood and was completely motionless.

Kneeling next to the cyclist, I first put my hand on his back to see if I could tell whether he was breathing, and then felt the side of his neck to see if I could find a pulse. Neither was successful. After what seemed like forever, but was almost certainly less than a minute, he did a little half-cough/half-spit. A small amount of blood came out of his mouth, and he began breathing. And then, unfortunately for him, he began to regain consciousness.

All high school coaches in Arizona have to pass a course on CPR and first aid. Plus, many, many pounds ago, I used to be a lifeguard. (Insert whale jokes here.) As he began to move around, I talked to him and tried to get him to lie still. I did a quick check on him and could see that one leg was badly broken, and the other one might have been as well. While there was some blood on his face (he was still lying on his abdomen, but his face was turned sideways), I didn't see a huge cut.

The UA Police were the first on the scene, followed by the Tucson Police, then the Tucson Fire Department. I have to marvel at their coolness under pressure. They had him in the ambulance and on the way to the hospital in a very short period of time. One of his shoes had been knocked off in the impact. I retrieved it from the bushes, amid the mangled wreckage of his bicycle, and put it with his backpack. (No one in any of the cars was hurt.)

The cyclist hadn't been wearing a helmet. He probably thought that was OK. Maybe he only lived a couple of miles from campus, and he took side streets, and anyway, what was he supposed to do with his helmet while he was in class?

I was thinking of going to visit him, but decided against it. If God is merciful, the cyclist won't remember me or anything else from that awful day.

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