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He should have known better.

2004-06-08 - 9:34 a.m.

Oh my gosh! Yesterday I totally forgot to tell you the gross part of the trip to Montreal!

Picture this: a beautiful and temperate sunny day. J and I, after walking for miles (miles people, I’m so not exaggerating and I have the blisters to prove it), are descending from Mount Royal on a long, steep staircase. (If you’re familiar with the area, this isn’t the main staircase that’s in the park, it’s one that connects two streets together and comes out near the top of rue Bishop.) This staircase is maybe four or five steep flights, interspersed with small platforms.

We hear chatter and this odd whizzing sound.

zzzzzZZZZZZ! This bike zips past us, the rider looking confident and in control.

zzzzzZZZZZZ! Another bike, a bit less sure-looking but competent enough. This rider is younger than the first.

zzzzz… We look back, a third, less certain-looking rider is starting off. This trend doesn’t look good. He makes the first flight; the second he’s starting to bounce too high on the platform; by the time he gets to the third you can see he’s starting to look shaky.

ZZZZZZ… he passes us, the bike hits the platform right below us, it bounces high and the rider loses control.

FLUP! The sound of flesh and bones and (thankfully) shin pads whumping into the solid-rock steps and SHKRCH, the bike goes off course as the rider tumbles down the last flight. His shoe goes flying.

The rider that preceded this one yells at the first (now several blocks away) to come back. A fourth cyclist prudently carries his bike down the stairs as he too converges on their fallen friend who starts to get up when the pain seems to hit him and he limps over to a rock to sit on. He rips off his shin pads before sprawling backwards to groan. Bruises are already purpling his shins and arms…

Man, it was the worst fall I think I’ve ever seen in person. What were we to do? He wasn’t hurt so much or so obviously that definitive, immediate action was called for. A broken bone, unconsciousness - these I would have known how to leap into action for (I’m surprisingly good in emergencies). Our expressions of concern were met by the friends with blank and almost hostile stares, followed by a stream of French amongst themselves. We didn’t want to ignore the whole thing and continue onwards though. We offered the use of a phone to call for help but we were assured that he’d be OK by the “leader” of the group who’d returned to the scene, and so we ended up leaving.

J thinks I was maybe a bit squeamish about the whole thing but I told him that my reaction partly explains my sense of humour; I don’t find it funny when someone is in a painful situation, be it physical pain you see in slapstick or emotional pain of embarrassment. I find it too easy to empathize with exactly the feeling the person in that situation has. This is why I never liked Seinfeld much – the humour is often at the expense of someone.

In the case of this would-be daredevil, I could see him verging closer and closer to losing control, and the moment when he hung in the air when sick realization swept over him that he’d lost it and was hurtling towards a whole lot of pain and there wasn’t anything he could do about it. That feeling of inevitability when you wish you could rewind time a couple of minutes and avoid what’s about to happen but it’s too late, too late, too late.

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