I had just started that job three weeks ago.
I thought it was going to change my life.
Everything was still new and fresh and bright and shiny.
This was my first job with my own office!
Now granted, the walls didn’t quite reach the ceiling… but it was still my own office. And we could pretty much yell over that wall and talk to each other without getting up… but it was still my own office.
It was April 11th, 2007. The streets were wet and slushy with snow. The sun was just peeking out around 6:30AM that morning. I had on my long, black wool coat with the fur around the hood. You know, that fur that never quite looks the same after it gets cleaned, so you end up brushing the thing like it’s your pet or something.
Anyway, I had on the coat, and my purse strapped across my body (because I was riding the CTA), and my work bag on my shoulder (that I could never seem to leave home without), and my lunch bag in my hand. I still can’t remember what was in the bag, but I remember reeeeeally looking forward to eating it later.
I was crossing the street, in the crosswalk, had the right of way.
But the light changed.
So I picked up my pace to a light jog, trying not to slide in the slush or get any on my nice coat. All the other cars waited. I was about two yards away from the curb.
I never saw the truck coming.
Now, in the movies, this scenario ends one of two ways:
- The truck comes to a screeching halt, just close enough to the pedestrian that the pedestrian braces themselves on the hood of the truck. Then, either one or both parties yells out some loud obscenity at the other, the truck speeds off, the pedestrian walks away frowning and shaking their head.
- The truck doesn’t stop in time. The pedestrian gets hit. Onlookers in the crowd call 911. Police take statements from witnesses and give the driver a ticket. The ambulance arrives and off to the hospital goes the pedestrian.
Which one do you think happened? Allow me to offer you a more dramatic third option.
I remember screaming as the truck made contact with my side.
I remember the weight of my body dropping to the pavement.
I had been thrown up in the air and several feet away from the crosswalk. Somewhere in that short moment of time, I saw my life…just a few past memories, but mainly things that were yet to come; moments I’d experience and enjoy, people I’d meet, lives I’d change…hmph. I was even a smaller size.
I remember the throbbing sensation from the leg I landed on.
As I came back to the present, I saw my things scattered about in the street: work bag over here, lunch bag over there, glove in the slush.
I rolled over to see the driver still in the truck, and I’m almost certain that he was on his cell phone.
Even in my frazzled state, even through the throbbing pain, even while lying there in the wet intersection of a major street in my nice wool coat– the spirit inside of me urged me to pull out my phone and type in his license plate number.
I know, I know— I can’t believe it either! But when the driver saw me with my phone, he was inspired to get out of his truck. Sadly, I had already picked myself up, gathered my belongings and limped over to the curb by the time he walked over to me.
He asked me if I was okay – as he did so, some guy driving a van rode past us, yelling out of his window, “Lady, you need to go to the hospital!” and sped off. The irony.
Then the driver proceeded to tell me he was in a hurry, had forgotten to grab his ID, and asked if I was headed downtown and needed a ride.
All I could do was shake my head no.
He asked me for my name and number, and gave me his to put his in my phone. And then he left me.
How’s that for compassion.
I stood there on the corner in the cold, rainy snow, going over this new Option C that had just presented itself. I didn’t hear any sirens coming my way. I wondered if any onlookers had even called them.
Reality began to set in. I had taken a job working in “the hood”, and they might not even come.
I contemplated calling them myself, but I was standing alone on the corner in the cold, rainy snow.
Then I saw my bus pulling up, and I weighed my options carefully:
Wait for the police, or cross the street and get on the bus. I had to choose quickly. I decided I’d call the police when I got to work, which was a block from where I’d get off the bus.
I hobbled up the stairs, noticing the impatience in the driver’s eyes as the doors closed quickly behind me. When I got to my stop and the bus pulled off, my co-worker spotted me just as she was about to turn the corner.
She beckoned for me to hop in then stared blankly with her mouth open, watching me limp over to her car.
I rehashed the details of my adventurous journey to work. She laughed her head off, thinking I was just exaggerating the story— until the police arrived to file my report.
Five minutes later, the officer had the drivers’ home address, handed me the report, and walked out the door.
My leg had swollen up to twice its size. I made a call to my boss and my family, giving them a quick recap of my accident. My no-longer-laughing-but-still-not-VERY-concerned co-worker drove me to Provident Hospital.
Provident is the equivalent of Cook County Hospital for the south side. If you’re from Chicago, the last hospital you want to be admitted to is Cook County. They are notorious for long check-in lines, being understaffed, and having a waiting room full of patients that have been sitting for hours. And unfortunately, this is where I was driven.
My medical insurance hadn’t kicked in yet. I told you, I had just started that job three weeks ago. I thought it was going to change my life.
The diagnosis came back: I had fluid on my knee and a sprained MCL. I had recently started my dance company, but I wouldn’t be able to dance again for a few years: the pain in my knee and the throbbing in my leg made it a challenge just to walk. Turns, kicks, and leaps were simply out of the question.
My gorgeous hair started falling out from what the dermatologist said was post-traumatic stress. An after work nap was introduced into my daily schedule, because I was in so much pain by the time I got home and didn’t want to keep popping pills. Even after physical therapy I still found myself walking a little crooked and very slowly down stairs and off of curbs.
And every single time I got ready to cross any street I had to fight the urge to run like hell to the other side.
My life did indeed change. I never saw the truck coming.
For almost two years, the driver denied ever hitting me. He finally settled out of court right before the time was up.
It was all spent three months later. The job had long since lost its new and fresh and bright and shiny. As a matter of fact, I sat in my office most days fantasizing about the day I’d hand in my resignation letter while grinning ear to ear.
Thanks to the truck and his driver, I saw enough of my future to know what’s waiting for me…my accomplishments, my future marriage, our family.
I remember all of those moments vividly and in great detail. But what I’d most like to remember from that day is what I had in the bag for lunch… because I was reeeeeally looking forward to eating it later!
I never remembered. But thanks to the truck and his driver, I had to take control over what was happening in my body. I forced myself to walk for an hour every week. I took a dance class. I went horseback riding. I took the stairs instead of the elevator. In addition to taking charge of my health, I started spending more time with the people I loved most. I went back to school and finished my degree. I began volunteering with an arts organization. And soon, I was much too busy for those after work naps. Eventually, crossing the street got easier for me. I remained cautious, but I learned that it’s not enough to simply follow the directions. Sometimes, you have to take an alternate route altogether.
Angel Simmons is a multi-talented artist from Chicago’s south side. She is speaker, runway and print model, storyteller, author and blogger at Love’s Great Design president and CEO of The Message, Inc., certified grief and loss coach, advocate for suicide prevention, and the current “Ms. Worldwide USA Ambassador” for the Live Out Loud Charity. Angel works with the one of the largest worship arts conferences in the country.
Angel has graced storytelling stages in Chicago and the suburbs, and is the co-host of the monthly series Do Not Submit Storytelling Open Mic Englewood.
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