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speed and trauma

In moments of physical crisis time really does appear to slow down. The body goes into hyperawareness, brain-eye coordination is speeded up, and objects seem to move slowly. Objects like a minivan, say. A gray late-model minivan turning directly into your path because the driver has not seen you or your bicycle. Unfortunately, you can not take advantage of this slowing down of time, because it affects you too. You see that the minivan is going to hit you, but you can't move fast enough to get out of the way.

(If you are interested in finding out more about the scientific background to this condition -- the time slowing, hyperawareness, hand-eye thing -- I apologize. I can't direct you to any article or website. I based my analysis on my own experience -- that's what seemed to be happening to me. I guess you could say I made it up.)

I was hit by a gray late-model minivan last week. The lady in the van making her left turn did not see me in front of her. After she hit me she still couldn't see me because I was under her. She heard me, though. Bike wheels make quite a racket when they are crushed by a front fender. I saw the whole thing before it happened, and was powerless to stop it. My body was in slow motion. My brain, interestingly enough, went into sports commentator mode. Yes, fans, we are going to be hit. The bumper is too close to avoid. And ... there it is. Yes, the front bumper has hit the handlebars. They are turning, and the bike is falling, and the wheel is going, and here comes the pavement ... Ouch! That's going to be difficult to ride away from. One of the reasons it all seemed to happen so slowly is that it did happen slow. The van was travelling about 5 mph. I wasn't going much faster.

I'll speed up now. The driver was very upset. I was angry initially, but calmed down when I realized that I wasn't hurt badly. We put the bike in her van and she drove it to the repair shop. I went home to deal with my abrasions. And that was all. I did not get the shakes. I have not had nightmares. My bike is back from the shop now, and I am riding happily. The potentially dangerous moment passed like a traffic cop, headlights flashing menacingly in your rearview mirror, who pulls by you and hares down the road after someone else. You heave a sigh of relief, wait a heartbeat or two, and put your foot back on the accelerator.


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