An Open Letter to the NYC Cab Driver Who Hit Me

[The following is based on a true story.]

Dear New York City Cab Driver Who Hit Me The Other Day,

Hey Cabbie, it's me, Daniel. The guy you hit with your car. Hello! I just wanted to check in, see how you were doing and introduce myself, since you didn't really stick around to chat after you hit me with your car (more on that later!). Things are OK with me. I'm (mostly) enjoying my time on the East Coast. I'm spending time with my family, seeing old friends, checking out my old college stomping grounds, doing some Christmas shopping, etc. Just generally having a good time.

If I had to do one part of this trip over again, I guess I'd say that I'd prefer not to be hit by you. And-

... Wait ...

It just occurred to me that you might not know what I'm talking about, Random NYC Cab Driver. Surely you must though. You must remember the guy you hit last Tuesday, unless you hit a bunch of guys last Tuesday (totally possible). Well, just so you're caught up on my situation, let me refresh your memory with ...

Getting Hit By a Car: A Dramatization

I begin to cross Broadway on West 3rd Street. About five feet from the curb, I turn to my right to see a yellow, taxi minivan heading straight for me. The driver doesn't see that the light's red (or maybe he does and he just hates me), so even though I'm supposed to cross, it's clear that he has no intention of letting me do that without a fight.
"So I says 'Don't tell ME; I already GOT a license. A license to thrill!' Anyway, cab-driving is super easy."

People talk about adrenaline a lot and how, in dire situations, it kicks in in unexpected ways and helps you accomplish goals you normally couldn't. You always hear those stories about the old woman who lifted up a car because there was a baby trapped underneath it, or how a cop will keep moving after getting shot because he's in Die Hard. So you already know that adrenaline does fun and amazing things in the pursuit of saving the body when it really needs saving. What they don't tell you is how cool it is. In my case, when adrenaline kicked in, all that happened was everything around me became slower, and I became much, much calmer. I didn't freeze or panic, I just saw the situation with clarity, where I only had to deal with a few, important facts. They were:

1) That car is moving far too quickly to stop before it reaches you;

2) There is not enough time to dive back to the curb, out of harm's way;
Jaws Theme. Jaws Theme. JawsTheme JawsTheme JawsTheme JawsTheme JawsTheme JawsTheme.

Those were the only things that mattered at the time, so those were the only things I saw with total clarity, and the only things I focused on, just like an action movie badass. And this is me, we're talking about. I am not a cool guy. I don't own a leather jacket; I don't know how to wink; I never know what to do with my hands at parties; and I hyperventilate if I have to pee standing next to someone. I'm not very cool indeed. But when a car was coming right for me, and it was clear that I had to do something, my brain -- for maybe the first time in my life -- ignored all of the things it usually obsesses over (hand placement, if everyone's having a good time, the volume of my voice, how sweaty I am, etc.). There wasn't a whole lot of time between me seeing your car and your car hitting me (on account of how fast you were driving it at me without stopping), but enough for my brain to calm me down and tell my body what we needed to do. I couldn't dive to either side and, on my best day, am not strong enough to punch a moving car out of the way. My body and I had one choice.

We jump. Straight up in the air. Just like Spider-Man.


And that's what we did. Last-minute instincts (or "spider-sense"), assured me that, if I'd stood still, I would have been pulled right under the car. I don't want to beat a dead horse or put too fine a point on this, but if not for my spider-sense and spider-like agility, I probably would have been killed (and, worse yet, I'd have missed my deadline and wouldn't have had a column this week). So I jumped straight up, lifted my legs and turned my head away (a technique I would later learn was the safest way to get hit by a car). I cleared the hood, and slammed into the windshield, crushing my right hand in between my body and the windshield. I'd extended my hand in a futile attempt to save myself (or shoot some web, maybe?). Adrenaline was still slowing everything down for me, but momentum was already doing its job so well that there was no real action I could take. All I could do was slowly evaluate the situation and really process everything that was happening. Oh, wow, I'm getting hit by a car! I can't believe I'm getting hit by a car! was my only thought. In hind site I probably could have made better use of my slowed down Matrix time.

The cab stopped short after the impact, launching me forward, high into the air and then onto the street. I laid on my back for a full three seconds.

When I tell my grandchildren this story, I like to think that I'll lie about this next part. I like to think that, when they ask what I said as I rolled around on the pavement after being hit, I'll come up with some clever, badass line. Or, if not clever and badass, then, worst case scenario, classy. I hope that I don't tell them the truth, because, honestly, the first thing I said immediately after I got hit by a car, was ...

"Ooohhhohohoho, fuuuck me."

And "said" is generous. I shouted that business.
And "I hope your windshield's OK you piece of shiiiiiit!"

I immediately stood up because, once the crisis-management part of my brain had done its job, the rest of my brain kicked in, so I was instantly embarrassed. I don't know why, objectively. That's just how my brain works. I get hit by a car and suddenly I'm saying, "Oh, my God, ha ha, so sorry everybody, please, continue about your business, I'll be fine, GOD, what a GOOFBALL I am. DOY! Ha ha, really sorry to bother anyone." So I got up, and walked around to the driver of the car that hit me. The driver rolled down his window and said nothing. To be specific, he in fact glared at me, like I'm the asshole. And I apologized (because I sort of am).

"Sorry," I said. "I'm ... pretty sure I'm OK, though."

"Are you sure," he asked. Remind him not to trust your judgment, I said to myself, because you were just hit by a car, like, seconds ago.

"I think so? But, again, I just got hit by you, so maybe ... maybe hang out. Like, a minute? Please hang out here a minute."


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Daniel O'Brien

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