For the past several years, my go-to fun fact has been telling people I’ve been hit by a car twice. This always grabs people’s attention and they want to know how, which I myself can’t give an accurate explanation for why I’ve been hit twice. But now I can add a new narrative to my arsenal: I have been in a car that has hit someone.
This past weekend, my friends and I car-pooled to brunch. Our cast includes Justin who makes frequent appearances on this blog as my former illegal roommate and who was also present two years ago when I broke an Uber. Also costarring are Molly and Alina, two longtime friends.
Our Lyft driver arrived almost immediately after I beckoned him. Several brunches ago, Molly and I got into a brawl because I tend to think we’re going to leave at 11 am when we say 11 and she assumes that means the party won’t possibly put on shoes until 11:20 AM.
I stood inside the apartment and screamed, “Molly, the Lyft is here! Are you coming?”
“I’m already outside!” she bellowed. “Are you coming?”
It was a miracle.
We piled into the Lyft. As the tallest in the group, Justin got the front passenger’s seat. Somehow I got delegated to the middle seat in the back - a perfect view for what was about to happen.
The ride was supposed to take 12 minutes. We were already late to brunch according to my internal itinerary, because I had to catch a bus out of town in 90 minutes and surely the restaurant would have a wait and would I finish my meal without indigestion? We also had to wait on a second Lyft to bring our other group of friends.
Alina commenced snapping selfies of us. Justin made small talk with the driver and admiring his own selfie sans Molly, Alina, and me.
We approached an intersection. I remembered seeing a bicyclist on the sidewalk. It was a red light. Our car slowed, stopped, and then went to turn on red. The bicyclist materialized in front of us. Nevertheless, our Lyft rolled forward. Our Lyft rolled right into the biker. It was one of those moments where you realize a millisecond before impact what is happening and are absolutely powerless. We were going to hit this biker. We did hit the biker.
I squeezed my eyes shut and bent my face to my lap. For some reason I thought the biker might crash through the windshield like a deer on an interstate.
The rest of the car made sounds split between gasps, guttural screams, and paralyzed silence.
When I opened my eyes, our Lyft had stopped, but the biker was out of view.
We couldn’t have hit him at more than 5 mph, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when he popped up, pulling his bike up with him.
Our entire car stared forward. I looked to our Lyft driver. I am not convinced he wasn’t about to drive right over him again. Thankfully, this did not happen. He put the car into park. None of us made a sound. Our driver opened his door. The biker dropped his bike and came around. And then he punched the Lyft driver right in the face.
Our car screamed. I suddenly felt we were the sedan being attacked by a tyrannosaur in the first Jurassic Park. What was happening? How did we get off this ride?
The biker backed off, assumed a boxer stance, and hopped from foot to foot. He clenched his fists and swung for our driver again. Our driver ducked.
“Oh my God!”
Molly rolled down her window. “Guys, stop fighting,” she pleaded at our brawling driver and the bicyclist.
“Should we call 911?” She turned back to the car.
“Roll up your window, I swear to God!” Alina yelled. “He’s going to attack us!”
“Do we lock the doors?”
“Should we call 911?” Molly repeated.
Justin stared through his windshield, a front row audience member to the collision. “Justin, are you calling 911?” Molly asked. “Justin?”
I had a flashback to the time a taxi car ripped the door off my Uber. Justin sat in the backseat. After that incident, Justin had fled the scene to hide in our friends’ bed. This exact scenario played out now.
“No,” Justin finally managed.
“Are you calling 911?” I asked. I looked from Molly to Alina. Both of them lived here. I was visiting from out of town.
“I don’t know what to do,” Alina said.
We all paused as our Lyft driver returned to the car. He shut the door as he took his seat. Through the window, we watched the bicyclist circle our car with his fists still raised. He banged on the driver’s door.
“I’m going to call 911,” I decided.
How had this happened? We were just trying to go to brunch and eat some avocado toast.
For some reason, our driver attempted to leave the car again, apparently to converse with the bicyclist. I put 911 on speaker.
“Hello, please state your emergency.”
“Hi, we are, uh, in a Lyft at an intersection, and we just hit a biker, and uh, they are fighting now.”
“Where is your location?”
“Um... uh... where are we? Where are we?” I asked the car. None of them replied, too enthralled with the fistfight outside. “We are at...” I spotted the street signs for the corner and told the operator.
“We are dispatching an ambulance, fire truck, and police to the scene. And you say you hit a biker? Are they okay?”
“Yes, I mean, I think so. He got up. He punched our driver?”
“Are you safe?”
Are we safe?
“Should we get out of the car?” Molly piped up.
“We should get out of the car,” I agreed.
None of us made a move.
The driver suddenly opened his door and returned to the vehicle with us still inside.
“There’s a lot of background noise,” the 911 operator interjected. “Could you tell me if you’re safe?”
“Yes... we’re safe,” I decided for us.
“We’re just going to get out,” Molly attempted to decide for the group, but the driver had put the Lyft back into drive. The bicyclist circled the car again. He spit right on Justin’s window. Our driver lurched car forward and turned the corner.
It didn’t dawn on me until after all this that in that moment we could’ve been kidnapped. I don’t think we would’ve been actually kidnapped, but our driver was confused with what to do and may have driven off with us locked in the car. Thankfully, he pulled off to the curb half a block up.
“What’s the make and model of the car?” the operator exploded through my speakerphone.
“Hang up,” Molly whispered.
“I’m not going to hang up on a 911 operator,” I hissed. “They’d send a SWAT team.”
“Hang up,” she insisted. We were all fully aware the driver could hear the operator.
Molly swiped to end the call on my phone. I pulled away.
“What is the make and model of the vehicle?” the operator repeated.
“I don’t know, we’re in it,” I whispered.
“We should get out,” I reinforced that proposal.
“We should,” Molly nodded. “Alina!”
“We’ll just get out here,” we felt the need to explain our decision to the driver. “We’ll just walk to our destination. Thank you so much.”
By the time I managed to escape the car, Alina and Justin had fled to the farthest street corner.
“Well, what do we do now?” I said, forgetting the operator was still on speaker. “Oh, hi, yes. Um, it’s a black sedan. Justin, what type of car is it? I’m not good with cars.”
“It’s a Kia,” he mumbled from the grips of IBS.
“It’s a Kia,” I repeated to the operator. “We’re out of the car. I see the police are here. There are a lot of witnesses at the corner. I think everyone’s okay.”
“Are you all okay and safe?”
“Yes.” I looked to my friends for reassurance. “Yes, I think so. Do I need to stay here?”
“If you can, we’d prefer you to wait at the scene to give a statement, but if you have - "
“I actually am leaving DC in an hour. But you have my contact info.”
I hung up and turned to the group. “Well, what do we do?” Alina asked.
“I guess we keep going to brunch?”
“How do we get there? Should we call another Uber?”
“It looks like it’s still a mile away,” I said. “And it’s too hot to walk.”
“I’ll get the Uber,” Justin said.
Oh now, you can talk, I thought.
A firetruck rolled up a block away as our new Uber pulled up. “Boy, do we have a story for you!” I remarked as we piled into the Uber.