Saturday, May 16, 2009

SFSK8rGrrl & Her Trusty '87 Caballero Vs The Speeding SFPD Cruiser


Decidedly Not The Sort Of Thing That You Ever Want To See (Or Hear) Charging Towards You...
(*Please Note: This is not the one that nearly made me a wealthy hood ornament.)

Thought I'd Blog about my Near-Miss...
No. Wait a minute.
Wouldn't a 'Near-Miss', by definition, equate a 'direct hit'?
Then, I would say it was an 'almost'...
Except for the "'Almost' only counts in hand-grenades and croquet" - thing.

I'll just tell you what happened a few nights ago that caused me - in an instant - to see, in my mind's eye, several variations of what my immediate future might be... all at once.
That... and it briefly left me a little on the shaky side with my pulse pounding like crazy in my chest...
But, on the bright side, the Adrenaline Rush it generated Kicked Ass!
(Don't let anyone ever tell you that a near-death experience can't have a Silver Lining.)


I had gone out cruising on my Powell/Peralta Dragons & Bats Board while the sun was still up in the sky. A few hours later, I decided to head home and I caught the N-Judah Light Rail back to Carl & Cole Streets from the stop at Church & Duboce (behind the behemoth Safeway on Upper Market St.)

I was wearing my 'second skin' - my beloved black leather motorcycle jacket to which I have added spikes and studs (I say 'Second Skin' because I rarely leave home without it.), black Tripp pants that ended just below my knees, Hot Pink & Black Rectors. (I don't have Carpal Tunnel. But, I've fractured my wrists more than once. Future-fracture prevention, road-rash prevention and the rock-hard, squared piece on the palm comes in handy whenever I need to let the occasional blind driver know that I see them - even if they don't see me.)

I admit it wasn't the best color choice for skateboarding at night, but, when I left, it was daylight. But, the pants and belt have a lot of polished silver things on them. A silver handcuff earring dangling from my left ear held a blindingly brilliant Red, White & Blue Strobe light. Jessi the Dog wears it most of the time - to be more visible. I borrow it when skateboarding after dark. And, of course, there's my glow-in-the-dark hair.

A Brief Aside Re: San Francisco's Criminalizing and just plain STUPID, Skateboard-Related Traffic Codes: I usually don't skateboard on Haight Street. Plenty of skaters do it, but I try to avoid it. Why? One of my ex-boyfriends - actually the one who introduced me to skateboarding and provided my first Caballero and Santa Cruz boards - was cited and had his skateboard confiscated by the SFPD for "skateboarding on the sidewalk"... even though he was neither "skateboarding" nor "on the sidewalk"! He had just exited the doors of the (now defunct) Cala Foods and was Standing Next to Me In Cala's Parking Lot. We tried to reason with the over-eager officer - Silly Us - he refused to hear Reason.

Several friends had their decks confiscated "For skating on Haight Street". There is a "No Skateboarding Permitted" Sign posted at Haight and Schrader. But, it's enforcement appears to be arbitrary. If you get caught - some officers will stop you, kindly inform you about the law and tell you to get off your board; some will glare at you with contempt, cite you and confiscate your board; and some will leave you alone... they are busy protecting and serving - the latter are my Favorites.

In San Francisco, it's also illegal to skateboard on many sidewalks. This law is Utterly & Unbelieveably STUPID! Think about what this means: It orders skateboarders to skate in the Street. The Streets of San Francisco. You know... alongside the 2+Ton Cars, Vans, Taxis, Pickup Trucks and the occasional 18-Wheel Semi. Vehicles often driven by people who are barely aware that there are other people present in other 2+Ton. Steel & Fiberglass, Enclosed Vehicles all around them... Do you honestly believe they're looking for individuals riding on sticks of wood with four wheels and No Enclosure? (Here's a hint: Ask a bicyclist.)

It's like ordering kids to "Go Play In Commuter Traffic". It's Vehicular Russian Roulette. Except it lacks the direct control of the gun, and - in lieu of bullets - shoots 2-ton automotive ammo.

Needless to say, since I stopped being suicidal/self-destructive a few years ago - I often skateboard the sidewalks. It depends on a few variables:
the condition of the surface vs that of the black-top, the density of pedestrian vs car traffic and if drivers indicate they are awake, alert and sane.

Back To The Incident...

So, I'm skating from Carl Street down Cole Street towards Haight. If I remember correctly, the curiously-named "Cole Valley" area - oddly enough, it's uphill from Haight Street - has signs that declare "No Skateboarding On The Sidewalks". Skate Here... Skate There... Don't Skate Here... Don't Skate There... My Side... Your Side... My Side... Your Side... (Sorry. FARSCAPE Reference.)

Fine With Me: I LOVE to Skate Cole Street! It's been re-paved recently and is pothole-free, offers a slight decline and is divinely smooooth all the way.

So, I'm dutifully skateboarding down Cole Street - in the street. I'm approaching the intersection at Frederick Street. I look to the left and right of Frederick. No cars on the left. On the right, I noted headlights. They seemed to be stopped/not advancing forward and were about 2 car-lengths away from the Stop sign. I figured it was safe to proceed through the intersection and did so.

When I reached the geographical center of the intersection, the quiet night air was suddenly filled with a terrible sound and I knew -
in that instant - that I was in immediate physical danger.

It was a sound that I recognized immediately. It was the low & rumbling, growing louder and accelerating roar of the amped-up engine of a police cruiser. I knew this... even before I glanced up towards my right and saw the black-and-white vehicle. (This was one of those extraordinary moments where so-called 'time' doesn't behave in the same linear fashion that it
might seem to when you aren't in immediate danger.)

There I was... on my skateboard... having just reached the point of being smack in the middle of the intersection...
And, here comes trouble... with his foot laying down the accelerator.

In spite of my nightmarish predicament, I remember being aware of a strange yet definite feeling of calm... I suddenly Really felt Myself in that moment... I could feel the coolness of the air on my skin; my field of vision included not just my right side and the approaching police car... but also the three approaches to the intersection (the fourth was behind me). I could see the
hill that the car had come down, the faraway onyx night sky above and the houses framing either side. It surprised me.

And, in spite of the spontaneous and clear, "Oh, F*ck!" that I uttered in my head at the instant that my mind put together the gutteral roar with the black-and-white... and I knew that the officer behind the wheel was pushing the accelerator, sending the speeding the car forward exponentially. I knew that he/she was likely thinking about their destination (in the direction of Park Station)
And I knew without any doubt that I was a pitiful few feet from the front grill of the car from whence that horrible sound originated.

I knew - in the same instant - that I was on target to become - in only a couple beats of my heart (if I carried out the unavoidable and momentary take-off and landing well) - an SFPD Hood Ornament. It seemed to take no more than two heartbeats for the police cruiser to travel from the Stop sign to me.

The Stop sign... Surprise! Surprise! They didn't stop at the Stop sign.
They didn't switch on the Colorful Beacon/Light Bar on top of the vehicle. Nor do I recall hearing any screeching or squealing - indicative of sudden braking.

I remember thinking, in this fleeting alternate universe, where seconds were stretched - like gobs of salt-water taffy, "They don't see me.".
I was at a virtual standstill on my skateboard - in the middle of the intersection...
El Diabolo/Toro is bearing down on me... roaring.
And, they have no awareness that I'm here.

Perhaps the strange feeling I experienced is the Calm that comes with the knowledge that what was happening was unavoidable... That, Death, in that moment, may be unavoidable... That - at that moment - As some Friends Tell me, "Whatever Is... Is."

I felt some small comfort when the officer driving - in the nanoseconds leading up to the moment they were going to hit me - seemed to finally see me. For, just before the car was going hit me, it swerved to the left - desperate to veer around me. There was virtually no room to manuever in - there were cars parked on Cole Street - all the way to the Stop sign on the corner (this may have contributed to the cruiser's driver not seeing me. Perhaps he was looking for headlights as I was.)
It wasn't much comfort because I felt that they weren't going to be able to avoid me. There didn't seem to be enough room. The police cruiser was coming much too fast.

After seeing all this, I glanced down my right side.
I saw Two Things:
My right hip and leg...
And... No more than 2-inches away from my leg - the jet black rubber frame of the cruiser's chrome bumper. My leg wasn't quite to the corner of the bumper. I was still in front of the car. I remember glancing on top of the front right corner of the hood... and (I had said 'carried out well' because) I decided that - when the car hit me - "F*ck the skateboard... I would aim to throw myself up and over the hood and towards street on the right side of the car.

At the same instant that I had looked down to see my leg inches from the car's bumper, I also made a desperate attempt to make a sharp, fast right turn on my skateboard - around that bumper and out from in front of the wheels underneath.
My Brilliant On-The-Fly Plan was this: Avoid Being Run-Over.

It's Amazing how fast your thoughts fly and how s-l-o-w-l-y 'time' struggles to crawl in these Death-Defying Moments.

And... I still don't know How it happened... But, the speeding police car that had - only a moment ago - been less than 2" from my right leg... didn't hit me.

From where I stood - in front of the car - it would have been simply impossible for me to get out of the way. It Was A Physical Impossibility! There wasn't 'time' for the cruiser to stop, there wasn't any room for them to steer around me without hitting another car, I wasn't going fast enough to get out of their way...
Any way I looked at it, it went against the laws of physics.

I continued on my skateboard in my original direction and I headed directly for the sidewalk on my right. I don't know if I was even breathing yet. I glanced behind me, towards the infamous intersection at Frederick Street and...
The police car was gone... no flashing lights... no squeal of car brakes... no apoplectic voice yelling at me over the PA system... Nothing... It was now just me, my Cab and the utterly still and quiet night.

My heart was pounding in my chest and in my ears. Having just defied the Laws of Physics and Death itself...
I was now trying to prepare myself for the coming onslaught: the return of the would-be Reaper/Police car... this time with light-bar flashing and the angry, booming voice over the PA system...
I got off my skateboard and continued walking along the sidewalk towards Haight Street. My rapid breathing mimiced a 100-yd dash runner.

I kept replaying the events of what had just happened over and over in my head, while simultaneously trying to think how best to deal with what I expected to be a Very Irate Police Officer...

Strangely enough, they never returned.

I was both relieved and surprised.

The SFPD officer in the speeding police car who - by all known physical laws - should have struck me in that intersection and who probably was close enough to me to identify my eye color... didn't Stop.

Nor did they come back to:
A.) See if I was O.K. or B.) Yell at me. or C.) Confiscate my Caballero. (Whew!)

When I reached my home, I set down my skateboard and blurted out, "He didn't even stop."... I was recovered from my miraculous experience of "evading high speed pursuit" and was now feeling rather incredulous.

When I told some friends what had just happened, they all asked me, "Did you get the number of the police car?". And I told them... "No. It happened too fast. I never saw the number. I never saw the driver. They didn't stop or come back."

They couldn't believe it, either, "You're kidding! They didn't stop?!".
"No.", I answered.

In spite of that... I'm just Thankful that I continue to be Blessed - when I find myself suddenly facing an event that could potentially end in either serious bodily injury and or Death - with this sort of outcome.

It isn't the first time that I've experienced such an inexplicable and impossible intervention...

Who knows? I may even share some of those stories with you... But, not here and not now.



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