Halloween Hit and Run
The headline popped into my head instantly: HALLOWEEN HIT AND RUN. The news crews would capture a group of four troublemakers, once thought of as ideal students, handcuffed and taken away for questioning. Still in costume, the poodle-skirt-wearing driver would be carted off to jail with her accomplices: a scarecrow, a doctor, and a policeman. Luckily, the evening did not progress that far. But for a sixteen year old with a newly acquired driver’s license, it went far enough.
I passed a handful of streetlights already blinking their repetitive yellow warning while driving home from a Halloween party with some friends. My sleepy little hometown shut down long before my 10:30 curfew, leaving many deserted streets. As we navigated the dark streets, we passed a man on his bicycle. Daytime pedestrians were rare, so a late night biker was even more unusual. This was not a Lance-Armstrong-spandex-wearing cyclist either. His dark, ragged clothes blended with the night, and he meandered aimlessly. Perhaps he was headed home after an evening in a bar. Maybe he even got thrown out. Maybe the police escorted him away from some disturbance and sent him along his current path. Whatever his reason for riding down the street at such an hour, he intrigued us.
As we drove by the man on the bike, we rehashed the evening’s events: the punch that we refused to drink in case it had been spiked, the creative costumes, and the guy who stayed in Batman character all evening. Laughter and gossip filled the car.
My next maneuver involved a simple left turn made many times before. I double-checked to make sure everything was clear and turned. All of a sudden the man on the bike appeared right in front of me. I slammed on my brakes, and the man teetered over onto the ground. No warning, no screech, no sound at all. No metal morbidly crunched into metal. I screamed, “Oh my God, I hit a man!” Pictures of my life flashed before my eyes. A lifetime behind bars awaited me. Thugs, murderers, and common criminals would replace my honor roll friends. A calm panic overtook me. What would my parents think? Would they even admit to knowing me, much less claim relation to me? I could just hear the flat tone of my father’s voice as he announced the worst possible proclamation, “I am so disappointed in you.”
I immediately turned off the car. I didn’t put it in park or pull out of the main street.
I worried about the unknown in front of my car, not behind. At least he is on the ground and not plastered on my car!
“What should I do?” I asked my friends. Suddenly, everything clicked. I opened my door, seatbelt still locked in place, and leaned out to ask, “Are you okay?” Then, like a neon sign, the warning DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS flashed in my head, and I slammed the door shut before the man had a chance to respond. The internal conflict continued:
“Are you okay?”
DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS.
“Are you okay?”
DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS.
Each followed with me opening and slamming my door. This probably took place for about ten to fifteen seconds, but it felt like an eternity.
My costumed crew emerged from the car to check on the man slowly rising from the ground. What a sight! Out of the car stepped a doctor, policeman, and scarecrow. With the power of numbers on our side, I bravely joined my friends.
I apologized, and finally the alcohol aroma of the after-hours athlete overcame us as he threw up his arms and said, “I saw you comin’!” Speechless, we stood there with saucer-sized eyes and confusion-filled faces as he got on his bike and rode off—a little wobbly, but in good shape. I couldn’t believe my eyes. A moment ago doom filled my mind, and now a clean escape was possible without anyone hurt or punished? Was it really that easy? My “doctor” friend said he was drunk. She figured we just scared him and he fell off his bike, and we should go. I felt awful leaving, but what was I going to say in a police report? I think I hit a man on a bike? The so-called collision didn’t even bend his bike? I don’t know who he was or where he went, but he was in good spirits when he left?
The evening passed, and I wasn’t arrested. Thankfully, the local newspapers and television stations had one less headline to write about that particular Halloween.