SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
July 19, 2020

Hit-and-Run Pedestrian

 

{NOTE: This is being typed shortly after the below events occurred. The shock and adrenaline are wearing off leaving me a bit shaky, so kindly forgive any lapses of eloquence on my part. Thank you.}

 

In the early morning hours of July 13th a hit-and-run driver smashed into several parked cars and struck four pedestrians near the intersection of 64th Street and 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst. Then he sped away.

            A few hours later, a little before nine, I donned my mask and headed out to the store to make my weekly grocery and cigarette run. It was another beastly hot day. The grocery store was two blocks south of the accident, so I did what I could to circumvent the scene on my way there. Good thing I did, because the area was swarming with cops and several blocks had been cordoned off, something I only discovered after leaving the store with my bag of groceries and heading home. Finding my plans to cross to the north side of 65th Street thwarted by police tape, I headed toward 19th Avenue, figuring I’d cross there. Along the way, I passed clusters of cops standing around, smoking, not doing much of anything at that point except bitching about the mayor.

            “First thing we need to do,” one of them said, “is get rid of that fuckin’ DeBlasio. He’s the fuckin’ worst.”

            I was sweating bad, my shirt soaked, my underwear soaked, and the mask not helping. I remember thinking I hoped I got home before the milk curdled.

            The thing I like about 65th is that unlike the other streets in the area, it’s a busy two-way thoroughfare. It may sound counterintuitive, but as a blindo, this actually makes crossing an intersection easier, because unlike those other streets, there’s always traffic on 65th. When I reach a corner, I don’t have to stand around waiting, trying to guess who’s got the light. If the traffic on 65th is moving, then I have the light. If it isn’t, I don’t. This is especially helpful on a morning like this, when all the street closures had thrown the neighborhood’s usual traffic patterns into chaos.

            I made it across 19th, then decided to cross over to the other side of 65th. Even that far away from the scene of that morning’s hit-and-run, there were still plenty of cops hanging around not doing much of anything, just shooting the shit. At least there was no more police tape to worry about.

            When the light changed and the traffic began moving on 19th Avenue, I stepped into the crosswalk. Just before I reached the middle of the street, a truck, its driver lacking the patience to wait any longer, tried to swerve around in front of me, swinging deep into the westbound lanes of 65th. This happens to me at one intersection or another nearly every time I step outside, so I thought little of it, save for a mild curse under my breath as I tapped along toward the far corner.

            Then there was a resounding THWUNK as the truck’s trailer caught me across the skull. My hat flew off and I was slammed to the pavement. As I fell, I realized what had just happened. It’s strange to realize what’s just happened. Thank god, I remember thinking, I was wearing a hat with a stiff brim. That may well have been what saved me. Well, that and my incredibly thick skull and apelike brow.

            There on the pavement, numb but still conscious, I heard the truck above me, inches away from my head, begin to creak and groan, and for a moment I was certain it was about to topple over, squashing me like a roach. “Well, it’ll be quick,” I thought.

            The truck didn’t tip over, but at least it stopped. If the driver had tried to speed away as is standard these days, the back tire would have crushed my legs and head.

            As I lay there I took a quick inventory. Nothing seemed broken. Nothing seemed torn and bleeding. I didn’t seem to have smacked my head against the pavement as I landed. I was still clutching the groceries and cane. My hat had fallen off, so I began flapping my hand around to find it, which I did. I was tempted to lay there awhile, just to let everything settle a bit and get my bearings. Then remembering what traffic was like on that street, I figured it might be better to claw my way to one sidewalk or another. I pushed myself to my hands and knees, and suddenly there was a young Hispanic man next to me, helping me up and asking if I was okay. I was expecting to feel the ricochet of pain as I got to my feet, the grinding snap of a leg or spine, but nothing happened. Too stunned to speak at that point, I let him lead me to presumed safety. At least I could stand. That was another good sign. Behind me I heard the driver’s side door of the truck that sideswiped me slam, and the driver joined us.

            As we reached the sidewalk, one of the three or four cops who’d been standing there—those cops who saw exactly what happened yet couldn’t be bothered to move their fat asses to help—asked, “Hey buddy, you okay?”

            I said nothing as the Hispanic sat me down on a ledge. “”Just relax there a minute,” he said.

            “Hey buddy, you okay?” the cop repeated, remaining where he was standing with his other fucking cop buddies. Again I said nothing. I wasn’t going to dignify that with an answer. I had nothing to say to him.

            “Yeah, he’s okay,” the cop concluded, though on what evidence I’m not certain. He then asked the driver of the truck what happened.

            “He ran into me,” the driver said.

            I finally dredged up the energy to speak. “I was in the fucking crosswalk. I had the light. I had the fucking right of way. You turned on me illegally.”

            “Look,” the cop said, “There’s enough shit going on right now. I’m not dealing with this.” With that, all three or four cops walked away.

            In the days before this, there had been several pro-cop protests just a few blocks from where we all were, with cops and cop lovers out to prove in the face of all evidence to the contrary that they were indeed that fabled thin blue line, there to serve and protect, that without them we’d all be nothing but lambs to the slaughter. Yeah, they really were the Good guys, the victims in all this.

            Yet on that hot Monday morning the lot of them just stand there as a blind guy in the crosswalk gets smacked to the pavement by a truck making an illegal turn, and they decide they don’t want to deal with it, apparently because it interrupted their kibitzing.

            I have in my time known a few ex-cops who were decent folk, but they were freakish exceptions. Maybe they were ex-cops for just that reason. Apart from that thimbleful, I’ve been given more than ample cause throughout my life to hate cops, which I do for more reasons than I can even begin to list here. Fucking state-sanctioned street gangs populated by the stupidest most brutal, and animalistic dregs the species has to offer. Now I just want to see them slaughtered wholesale, gutted and hung from lamp posts by their intestines. Fucking pigs.

            Ironically, I’ve written several cynical pieces about the mayor’s Vision Zero program and the standard NYPD response to the city’s epidemic of hit-and-run fatalities, and these motherfuckers just proved that everything I wrote was true. Had I in fact been killed, their response would not have changed a whit, and given I wouldn’t have been there to protest, they would’ve concluded I was to blame before shaking the driver’s hand and sending him on his way.

            After those bloated fucking pigs walked away, the truck driver and the Hispanic Samaritan stayed with me as the pain in my right shoulder began seeping into my consciousness. I was still clearly in mild shock, though at least my teeth hadn’t started chattering the way they usually do when I go into shock.

            “I’m staying here with you,” the truck driver said. “If you want an ambulance, I’ll call one.” I just shook my head, which I’m sure was a relief to him.

            A minute or two later I stood, a little shaky but feeling better than I should have. At least I wasn’t dizzy, meaning I likely didn’t have a concussion.

            The truck driver walked me across the street, asked again if I was okay, and I waved him off. I stood there a moment, head down, taking inventory yet again. Satisfied, I began making my slow way back to the apartment, hoping to get there before the milk curdled. The next morning, I could tell, I was going to be sore as hell.

 

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