Thursday, April 22, 2010

Road Rage! © by adrian

As I reluctantly come to a stop, a passenger from the huge black Cadillac beside me jumps out and pulls open my car door. Startled, I look over to him and notice a rather large hammer rapidly descending toward my head. I have a brief moment to feel really disappointed about the way this evening is turning out before realizing I better do something quickly or I may never have the opportunity to feel really disappointed again. Everything is happening, as us old photographers say, in a flash.

Let me back up a few minutes...

It's just past midnight on a warm summer's night and I'm casually driving along Bloor Street. I'm thirty-three years old and feeling just fine in my little 1968 Cortina, thank you very much.

The Cadillac, before becoming interested in me, was originally going in the opposite direction of my travel. There were a few girls on my side of the street (the recurring story of my life, it seems) and the fellows in the Cadillac made a u-turn directly in front of me so they could converse with said ladies. Because of that, I needed to swerve and quickly stop in order to avoid a collision. I voiced my displeasure by blasting my horn and then continued on my way. The chaps in the Caddy were immediately rejected by the girls they sought (probably a recurring story of their life) and so they were now mad at me because, as far as they were concerned, by being in their way I had destroyed any chance of a blissful night for them. So they decided to pursue me. After all, boys will be boys.

They kept trying to maneuver ahead of me as they chased me and my car along Bloor Street, but the little Mario Andretti I keep bottled up inside me reared his ugly head and refused to let them pass. Up the road a bit I could see a car double parked ahead of me and with a sinking feeling I knew that no matter what I did, I was about to be boxed in by the Cadillac cruising to my left. I have to admit that just before I came to a full stop, I had no idea I was on the cusp of a new fad called road rage. I mean, after all, this was the friendly 70's. We didn't even bother locking our car doors in those days. Even if I had known, I really had no time to appreciate that once again in my life, I was a trend setter.

As I was saying, the door flew open and there it was, plain as day, no mistake about it. A full sized hammer was being swung toward the non-existent nail in my head. The holder of said hammer was definitely determined to cause me serious injury. Sigh…

I kicked both my legs out the open door as I twisted my body sideways. I thought I might have time to push him and his hammer away from me and my head. In the same moment I summoned an enormously loud scream from the depths of my being. I hit a high C that would have made Pavarotti, had he been nearby, weep with envy and bow to the power of my lungs. Loud as my scream was, it wasn’t quite loud enough to diminish or drown out the crack of breaking bone I heard as the hammer connected with and shattered my left kneecap.

Then they were everywhere.

Five, ten, a dozen perhaps, young, strong and swarthy men appeared from nowhere and dragged him off me. He was on his knees now, in the middle of the road and a few of them held him as others kept hitting and yelling at him to drop the hammer. I have to confess that as I watched him being pummeled, I wasn’t able to muster the slightest bit of compassion towards him. To be really honest, I kind of hoped he wouldn’t drop the hammer, now that the tables had turned. While all this was going on, two police cruisers, with sirens blaring came roaring to a stop nearby.

"Whoopee!" I thought, "We're going to have a party."

Police jumped out of both cars with guns drawn screaming at everybody to stay where they were. Sitting in the car with blood gushing from my newly broken kneecap, I found it surprisingly easy to accommodate their demand. The crowd parted as the police charged into the middle of the melee, but the fellow with the hammer still kept his grip on it. I suspected by now it had become his Linus blanket and he was determined not to part with it. A loud "drop your weapon!" order from a policeman with his gun drawn seemed to bring the fellow to his senses. As he let the hammer fall, he was quickly handcuffed and pulled to his feet.

"All right, who's going to explain to us what the hell is going on here." one of the policemen shouted. The gathered crowd all turned in one silent motion and looked towards my Cortina and me, as none of them knew the answer to that question. They had apparently been summoned by god to save me, but didn't have the faintest idea why. In fact, all of them had been minding their own business hanging out in the all night pizza joint I ended up stopped in front of. The double parked car belonged to another who had simply run in to pick up his pizza. My cry for help had produced the testosterone spike needed to have their collective adrenalin drive them all outside ready to do battle.

As the assailant was led away and placed in the back seat of one of the patrol cars, the other policemen came over to me to find out my version of what happened. At the same time, everybody became aware of the Cadillac's driver hanging about and he was also taken to a police car.

As the policeman started taking notes, we both quickly became distracted by the blood seeping through my pants. I wasn't in any pain yet and had briefly forgotten why we were gathered there myself. On his insistence, I pulled up my pant leg in order to see what I had won. Well, my kneecap was a mess. It didn't look anything at all what I remembered it had looked like earlier in the evening. Bits of bone sticking out, torn, loosely flapping flesh and lots of blood, I obviously needed some serious medical attention. The policeman went back to his car and brought back a large roll of gauze that he helped me wrap around my knee.

As I said, I was not in any pain yet and so we decided that seeing as my right leg was fine I could drive to the hospital myself rather than wait for an ambulance. He also decided that he would lead the way and finish taking his notes when we got to the hospital. The assailant and his driver were both secured and being interviewed by the other policeman. The gathered crowd was in such high spirits chatting amongst themselves about what a great time everybody was having, it seemed a shame to leave them, but I obviously needed to get my kneecap glued back together (or whatever it is they do in such circumstances) so, off we went. Because I arrived at the hospital with my very own police escort, I was immediately whisked away to a private area and didn't have to wait in any line... Believe me, if you have to go to a hospital emergency clinic, take the police with you, I guarantee you will get quick and attentive treatment.

X-rays were taken and as a doctor tucked everything back inside my knee and started stitching it all together again, the policeman continued to interview me and take notes. I was given a tetanus shot, sleeping pills and some pain killers. I was told to stay off my leg as much as possible and come back in three or four days so they could see how successful the sewing had been. After instructing me not to leave town because I was now a material witness in any potential criminal proceedings, the policeman wished me well and I was sent on my way.

It was about four o'clock in the morning by the time I got my weary body home and into bed. As the medication helped me drift off to sleep I remembered I needed to get up early so that I would have time to ready myself for a first date with a lady I met just a few weeks earlier. I didn't even know if I would be able to walk the next day and my last thought before sleep won over was, "Boy, I bet that should work out really well."

As it turned out, my date did indeed work out really well. This was, as I mentioned, the early 70's and she was part of the first wave of women who a few years earlier had decided to return to university to explore their options and become more independent.

She lived in the suburbs with her husband, two cars, two teenage children and a house complete with a swimming pool in the backyard. I originally met her at a job I was shooting pictures at and suggested we get together for a harmless cup of coffee on the university campus some time. Of course she said no. After three weeks of phoning her every day to chat about how her life no longer looked the same as it used to before she went back to university, she said yes.

Now, the reason I mention all this is because in some small bizarre way, my newly acquired broken kneecap helped contribute to the theatrics of our first date. Dating, after all, is foremost about presentation, you know.

I drove into the university grounds and saw her sitting on a small hill under a tree. It was a beautiful sunny day and she had arranged herself so the backlighting sun cast a shimmering halo around her body. After parking and struggling out of the car I reached inside to pick up an old gnarled cane I had brought along as a necessary prop. As I limped up the hill towards her I swear I could hear angels singing. Certainly at the very least, some hokey, mushy sound track from any romantic movie you could think of. I was ten years younger than her and had very long hair, but the cane and the limp gave me a certain maturity and serenity I could never have pulled off on my own. Both of us succumbed to the intoxication of that first meeting. Six weeks later, after many more daytime rendezvous, she left her previous life and moved in with me and we set out on a very happy next ten years chapter of our lives.

Anyway, back to my damaged knee. I did need to return to the hospital again to get some more stitches and a few times after that for more examinations but after a month or so it finally started to slowly heal. Walking up and down stairs sometimes is a challenge and it never was quite the same old knee it used to be, but I'm sure if he had connected with my head my knee would have been the least of my worries. I also had to attend a preliminary hearing so the police could determine what to charge the perpetrator with. As it turned out, a few months after that he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and I received a summons to go to court to testify against him. The driver was not charged with anything, as he claimed he had absolutely no idea his passenger would do such a thing.

Facing him in court was certainly a very frightening and surreal experience, but having guards everywhere gave me the illusion of security. He had been out on bail since the incident and his trial ended up taking far less time than the assault itself. He was convicted and sentenced to six month in jail and then immediately removed from the courtroom in handcuffs. After all, if he had hit me on the head as he originally intended, he could very well have killed me and I would never have been able to tell you my story.