(helping a stranger)

really, if i could make this stuff up i probably would.

friday afternoon during a particularly mad rush hour in chicago i decided to go for a long jog.

an open-ended run in the sense that i wanted some mental solitude and wasn’t sure how far i’d be running, i set off towards the downtown loop. i had to stop by brady’s new place to pick up my sunglasses, which he threw down to me from his front window…i bid him good luck on the date he had later and took off.

without a real route in mind i followed the flow of green lights towards the merchandise mart, skipping past distracted white collared soldiers as they poured out of highrises and stepped into traffic hailing cabs. a group of young women smoked cigarettes off to the side of a happy hour bar, having gotten an early start.

having been a bit too focused on work lately, i’ve been running less often and this particular run began to rudely remind me of that. as i came back around towards my neighborhood, choosing chicago avenue as my route across the highway, i crossed over the long up and down hill in front of the chicago tribune plant with heavy, heavy legs, frustrated at the thoughts of stopping that kept creeping into my head.

at the top of the hill i needled in between a stopping bus and its eager fares, along the very edge of the road and sidewalk as it was the only space to squeeze through crowd. the bus, rolling to its stop, honked at me as a warning which i remembered thinking was quite rude.

just then, in front of a second bus that was pulling away from the same stop, i saw a young woman take a nasty spill over the front of her bike’s handle bars. the second bus, having blown its horn at her, swerved around her and continued on.

a taxi pulled hard to the left to narrowly miss her, and there she lay.

i ran out into the street as another biker rolled up to make sure she was okay. a car pulled over just past her and a young man hopped out to help.

i picked up her bike and put it upwind to us, hoping to keep traffic aware of the four people now standing in the middle of the road, one on the ground scuffed and stunned. her bag lay beside her and she was slowly taking census of her injuries, trying to determine what was cut and where blood was coming from.

she’d been shoved into the spotlight of an afternoon rush-hour, so i tried to make her feel like she had a friend among the chaos. it felt like everyone else was staring at her like a zebra had just landed in river north, and i could tell she still hadn’t digested what appeared to be a pretty major handshake with the pavement.

blood was dripping from her face, i couldn’t see where exactly…i was relieved to see it was a cut on her chin. i told her i was getting really tired of running, so i was happy to help.

the other biker wandered off, and when the guy with the car offered rachel handsoap, i knew he wasn’t the nurturing type. he took off too. gradually she crawled over to the sidewalk, and i collected her belongings from the street. we sat down to plan our next move.

i took one look at her chin and saw what i’d seen in the mirror plenty during my soccer career: the need for stiches. her cut looked just like the cuts i’d sustained above both my eyes after head-t0-head collisions.

she called her husband now, and in explaining to him the accident her emotions kicked in. she was hurt and sad and scared and she had a wedding to attend that night and she didn’t know what hospital to go to or how to get there. her husband was stuck in traffic, commuting into the city.

we were stranded on an island in the middle of a busy city.

since leaving her to wait for her husband wasn’t an option, i called brady from her phone. there are friends that you know will do certain things, and i knew brady would come help a stranger get to the emergency room. i knew that, and i told rachel that not only would he scoop us up but he was six blocks away and he’d do it with a big fat smile on his face.

and i was right.

fifteen minutes later, brady, rachel and i were weaving through some pretty horrible rush hour traffic towards northwestern emergency.

rachel was pretty beat up…her arm, shoulder, hands, and face were all skinned or cut, and her leg was bruised and hurt when she bent it. the adrenaline wore off and the headache set in, so brady and i tried to keep her talking and laughing to distract her from the whole ordeal. we had a lot in common, actually…we’d all grown up in the same area.

we arrived at the hospital and she began checking herself in. i told her i’d track down her husband before i left, and shortly thereafter did just that. he’d arrived just after us, and we shook hands in the waiting room before a nurse showed us around to where his wife sat, dutifully answering identification questions until her emotions let go at the sight of her husband. it was a sweet scene, and i handed him her belongings and ran off to ride home with brady.

that was my friday evening.

hanging out with my new friend rachel.

it’s really not often that life presents you with the opportunity and the ability to help a stranger, but when it does, don’t hesitate…there really isn’t a better feeling.

Leave a Reply