The Fragile Skull: After Midnight Blogger
The skull: It’s more like an egg shell than most think. Break that, and sometimes the yolk breaks. Everything gets scrambled then.
I used to drive a 1000cc, then a 650cc bike. I put them up. Too many friends killed on the highway. No chance. T-boned by cars slamming from side roads, roaring over the open yellow jacket lines without looking. The turning point was on my way to cover the fires in Yellowstone. I was going to rendezvous with another writer-biker far north. There I was cruising in my leathers and boots, hadnt even hit the Wyoming border yet…
and a young boy-man in a big low car, probably his grandfather’s, crossed the center line and hit me head on. I saw him coming. All I remember is the huge roaring of his engine and my bike’s engine. I stood up on the pegs and rode standing all hell bent for leather trying to get out of his way. Screaming, I was literally screaming at the top of my lungs, Nnnoooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!
Unsuccessful. A short flight out of a cannon through the air, tumble hips over spine, I crashed into the black hot concrete, my left shoulder first, I could feel it sublux nearly to center sternum… but that was not as horrifying as hearing a crack so loud it sounded like my skull had cracked open. And there I lay in a black leather heap in the middle of the highway.
You know, if you have ever been hit really hard, you lie there thinking maybe you are dead because you cant feel anything. You dont even think about who hit you or why, nor about the biggest danger, other vehicles coming over the hill merrily not expecting a human being lying in the middle of the road.
I tried to get to my knees, but nothing was working, I only was able to fall over onto my belly. Suddenly everything hurt, I mean really really a world of hurt everywhere.
I could see from concrete pebbles level that the white car with its boy-man in it had run off the road. Suddenly there were people, cars stopping and parking willy nilly. Men got out of their cars. My bike’s gascocks had broken open from the long slide down the road, gasoline was gushing everywhere.
In one of those Walter Mitty moments, a man in a business suit… all I remember is his shadow fell on me. You alright son? he asked me.
I managed to strangle out that my shoulder was hurt bad, and he helped to turn me over to unzip my leathers. Just an inch in, seeing soft bruised cleavage, he became so tender. “Awww, You’re a girl,” he said.
In full dress cover, sometimes even strong men and voluptuous women look alike when they’re riding. At least when they’re laying in the road. My long hair was up under my helmet.
Helmet. The radiant helmet. My helmet with the thick foam liner. My helmet with the state trooper chin strap and smoke visor.
The giant crack I’d heard, that literally made me deaf in my ear for hours afterward wasnt just the sound of the high impact plastic helmet hitting the roadway, it was the sound of the helmet’s thick foam liner cracking wide open as my head hit concrete.
Under the helmet, my skull had been wrapped in 1.5 inches of hard extruded foam. The foam liner took the hit. Not my skull.
Every year here in the Rockies, bikers surround the State Capitol on their animals, protesting the latest bill requiring helmets. I understand. I do. Freedom. Taking the Lewiston twisties with your hair waving behind you, looking like St. Outlaw, is so cool, like being a bird nearly. Freedom to be as you wish.
The legislators on the other hand are trying to trim the budget, to reduce the millions of dollars in medical and rehab paid out by taxpayers per year for unhelmeted riders who become badly injured and have no medical insurance.
But also, there’s this thing I learned from an old timer hog rider when I got my first bike. It was that you could be standing in your driveway at high noon, straddling your hog with the engine off and the kickstand down, and fall over anyway. My first bike weighed 660 pounds. You could fall over in your own driveway and from a height of— How tall are you shrimp? old timer’d asked me. Five foot, cough cough ahem, nearly 4″. Yeah, well see, think of dropping your head in a dead drop to the concrete from a height of 5 feet four inches. How’s that sound? Pretty bad, right?
Yeah, pretty bad. Just about like the horriific crack I heard when I hit the aspahlt in that head on collision. Only it was the sound of the helmet breaking, not my head.
I think so sadly of Sonny Bono who ran into a tree while skiing and died, and also Natasha Richardson who fell down on the beginner’s slope while skiing and died, and also little children who fell from their bikes while riding along so happily, and are now in comas for years, and too, my biker friends, two of whom are paraplegics from their helmetless headons, and one who has a shattered leg that already was so thin from the polio. I think of the kid just a few years ago who was hit on his motorcycle right in front of me as he took off from a stoplight and how the driver hit and ran. And how every witness chased the car down, and at least 10 cell phone calls went out to 911, and the car driver was apprehended, and the rider was alright. Helmet. He had a good lined helmet on.
I know you cant wear helmets in every endeavor in life, although some probably ought wear them in certain tough bars too. And I know some say a helmet could make a head injury worse in some way. But, still, I think of anyone’s head dropping from whatever height they are tall, and I see the wisdom of helmets when undertaking activities in which serious spills are inherant or possible. It’s not a philosophy of wisdom vs. freedom. But wisdom about freedom.
I dont know if I’ll ever ride again. It’s in my blood, and I wish I could. But, if I did, I’d like as good a helmet as before, maybe a silver helmet like the most august rider of all: Mercury. Silver, baby… with wings. Yeah, that’d be quite some ticket to ride.