Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hit twice by a car

My friend Billy was hit by a car when he was four years old, leaving him with a spinal injury that affects his ability to walk. It also paralyzed his left hand. He uses a scooter to get around town.

He was telling me the other day that a few years ago he was hit again by a car while trying to cross the street. The scooter was damaged and he wound up in the hospital for about a week. He said the driver got seven points on his license because Billy had the right-of-way.

Billy doesn't drive. Even if he did, he couldn't afford a vehicle that would bring along his scooter.

Billy knows lots of places around town where he can hook up his scooter to recharge it. There's a local church and a coffee shop that lets him do it. He's also figured out ways to get around in the rain, snow and other inclement weather even though he has to travel miles everyday to odd jobs around town.

But he can't do anything about the fact that some people don't drive safely. He can't help it that they don't stop at pedestrian intersections when he has the right-of-way or wait until he's out of the intersection to hit the gas pedal. It's not his fault some streets have only one curb cut and there may be a carriage or bicycle blocking it so he has to wait in the street a few minutes longer while impatient drivers honk at him. It's also not his fault that pedestrians on the main streets get annoyed when they have to step out of his way because his scooter is large.

I've watched while Billy drives his scooter into a driveway to let pedestrians use the sidewalk as he patiently waits for them to pass. Billy is a kind and thoughtful man. He carries dog biscuits because he knows so many people in town who have dogs. The dogs have come to expect a treat from Billy.

So do people. For years, Billy has done free gardening around town- weeding and planting flowers. Sometimes store owners provide him with free sodas or sandwiches or coffee - for life.

But despite this, because we live in a tourist town, some people who see Billy don't know who he is, a kind and thoughtful man who deserves respect. They honk at him because he has to cross the street in his scooter. They sometimes yell at him or tell him to get out of the way when he's on the sidewalk.

We both agree that it's ironic that he has to use a scooter because he was hit by a car and now people get mad that he has to use a scooter which they think gets in the way of their cars. We also both agree that people need to slow down at intersections and watch out more for pedestrians.

Because my friend Billy has been hit twice by a car. And I don't want to see it happen again.

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