I went to veterinary school in Davis, a big bike town. Not unexpectedly, I had a beater ten speed I bought used my first year of vet school. It was maroon. I have no idea what brand it was because by the time I got it, the letters had worn off. I pimped it out with a milk crate attached to the rack over my back wheel with a bungee cord, and a bell. Classy, I know.
Although I had a car, I rode that bike everywhere. I also had a job at a lab during school. Unlike some college jobs, this was a year round job. I stayed in the summer when most of the town disappeared for summer break. And I rode that bike. Davis is near Sacramento and it is hot in the summer, with a few weeks of triple digit heat. Still, I rode that bike.
I lived in southeast Davis. The lab was in northwest Davis, technically in the next city over. It took me forty-five minutes at a good clip to get to and from work. I had to traverse all the way across town and through all of the deserted campus to get to work by seven in the morning.
There are lots of bike paths through town and campus. At one point the path dips down a hill under a bridge through a tunnel. The decline and tunnel combine to make a blind spot at both ends of the tunnel. There are two lanes distinctly marked. I always made sure I stayed on my side, but I never slowed going down the hill into the tunnel. The hill coming out was steep. Slowing meant I might not have made it up the other side without having to walk.
One summer morning, I was running a little early and I hit the hill going into the tunnel at full speed. An employee at the burger joint on my side of the tunnel was rushing to work because he was late. He didn’t bother to stay on his side of the road.
We hit head on at full speed. My head struck his and I went flying over my handlebars. My head hit the concrete side of the tunnel. Of course, I wasn’t wearing a helmet. I’m pretty sure I blacked out for a minute. When I came to, he was holding his head standing over me asking if I was okay. He offered to let me call someone for a ride to the hospital from his work. I looked at my watch. I was no longer running early.
I told him no and hopped on my bike, my head ringing, and headed towards work. I passed the student medical center on the way, but it wasn’t open, so I kept going.
At work, I threw up a few times. My boss tried to send me home after I told him what happened, but I said no because my roommates weren’t around in the summer and I didn’t want to go home and fall asleep with a concussion. I figured an eight hour day at work was long enough time that I could safely go to sleep when I got home.
After work, I hopped back on my bike despite multiple people offering me a ride. It was over a hundred degrees. My head was throbbing. I was still nauseous. I began my ride and sweat poured down my forehead stinging my eyes. I had to stop a couple times on the way to be sick.
Half way home I couldn’t go any further on that bike. I got off and started to walk, pushing the bike next to me. I walked the rest of the way home. It took me an hour and half to get home that day.
I got in the door, cranked up the air conditioning, and fell asleep.
Three days later my head still throbbed. I went to the student clinic. They said I still had a moderate concussion. Although I was fine, they scolded me for not wearing a helmet, and for not getting a ride to the hospital when it happened.
This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s writing workshop prompt, “Write about a time you probably should have called for a ride home.”