Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Not Safety Minded
During the summer between my 2L and 3L years in law school I lived and worked in PDX with Bryan while our pregnant wives stayed at home and kept the jobs that provided our insurance. Bryan's wife was due before the summer ended, so he headed out a couple of weeks before I did. On the night before he was to head home, Bryan and I decided to go for a bike ride in Forest Park with Dave - a ride that was a little different than our preferred route. I seem to recall it being the 8A-8B combo, but I'm not sure. The lower portion is pretty steep. The last time I had been on that stretch it was raining. The train had made the mud so slick that I tumbled down most of the lower portion in a series of falls. I have a pretty sensitive toughness-reset switch, so I was tentative heading down that part of the trail as it was. Some of the local BMXicans had built a jump by stacking logs at the beginning of the runout of the steepest section. I use the term 'runout' loosely as it was a very short flat section that ended with a 90 degree turn down another steep pitch with exposure beginning at the turn. All the scenarios that I imagined when I looked rickety construction and the steepness of the approach ended badly. Bryan must have seen something different. Perhaps he saw a fluid jump and flawless landing. Maybe he saw a perfectly executed tripod turn that flowed him into the corner. I don't know. Whatever he saw was enough for him to ignore me when I said jumping off that ramp was stupid. He hiked his bike back up the approach - which was too steep to ride - and headed back down. He picked up what appeared to be the right amount of speed on the approach. His front wheel launched off the ramp at the perfect trajectory. As his front wheel angled skyward off the ramp the top log, that had compressed with the load from his front wheel, rebounded. The rebounding log caught his rear wheel in time to turn his perfect jump into an airborne nose wheelie. Amazingly enough, Bryan landed the nose wheelie and rode it for a while. He was riding it so well, it looked like he could hold it indefinitely. The impending turn, however, forced him to make a decision. Instinctively, he grabbed his brakes, which sent him toward a pile driver. Just before his head hit the ground, he was able to tuck his head and neck enough that he landed on his shoulder and back, which rolled him into a somersault. I followed proper crash etiquette and asked if he was okay. "That wasn't safety minded," he said as he gathered himself to stand up. Seeing that he was apparently okay, I started laughing and we started the usual post-crash analysis. The banter was interrupted when Bryan spit out some blood. I asked him if he had hit his mouth and he said he hadn't. Then he coughed up some frothy, bright red - almost pink - blood. Dave reactively blurted out, "I shot a deer and it bled like that once. Then it died." Yep. Dave actually said that. Banter turned to concern. I left Dave to keep an eye on Bryan and I hurried back to the car. Once Bryan was back in the car, we tried to assess the situation. I wanted to head straight to the emergency room. Bryan flatly refused. Only someone who's tried to talk Bryan out of something to which he's entirely committed would understand the futility of trying to change his mind. He wanted to avoid the emergency room if at all possible and ask some people who might have some answers. As we made some calls, it became clear that there was 9,999/10,000 chance that it was a spontaneous pneumothorax (or something like that) that had collapsed his lung and that his lung would reinflate on its own in short order. The other possibility was that it could be something much more serious and that if it went badly we had 30-45 minutes to get to the hospital. Bryan decided to try his luck (against my strenuous objections) and assured me that if he felt worse, we'd run to the hospital immediately. So, we headed back to the apartment where I spent a stressful night watching Bryan while the "Royal Tenenbaums" played in the background. It turned out he was fine and he left the next day for home (again, over my strenuous objections). As he left he said, I'll try to be more safety minded this time. That story is as good an excuse as any as to why I avoid jumping my mountain bike.