One day in August 2012, during a five week holiday in Paris, I was wandering around Paris, lost again, I was hit by a car. By this stage of my holiday I was somewhat accustomed to the road rules in Paris. Basically it is this: 'Whoever Dares. Wins'.
There are traffic lights and the familiar little green men as in Melbourne. In Paris though, when a car is turning right off a main street, the little green man on the side street flashes. He doesn't stay constantly green. The flashing green man (FGM) in Paris indicates that if there are not any pedestrians crossing the street with the FGM, then the car turning right can go right.
Of course this means that every vehicle turns right without looking, as long as they have the FGM! This is how the battle works. Pedestrians cross the road on the FGM with their heads turned to face any left oncoming vehicle. This is where 'Whoever Dares. Wins' comes into play. If you can out-glare the vehicle, the vehicle stops to let you pass. If you give in, you have to step back and let the vehicle through. If vehicles could stick their noses in the air, they would at this point!
I had the FGM. I could see the other side. Nothing was on my left. I pushed my wheelchair joystick forward and looked left and forward. As I looked forward - BASH! My wheelchair rocked to the right as a car slammed into it!
Phones and fury and great concern from bystanders abounded as a woman about my age had decided to turn her car down the side street, not looking for pedestrians, braking only to slow as it was a tight corner. Only because of that braking, and my wheelchair alone weighing 175 kg, plus me, did my wheelchair and I not fall over or crumple into a little sad heap. She also managed to hit my chair side on so that the impact was deadened and my chair was not buckled. Nor was I.
I was however in complete shock for a short time. In a few seconds I thought 'I'm lost', 'My French is good only in a restaurant', 'Does my wheelchair work?', 'Where is my phone!'
I gave the driver the 'Are you f...ing serious' mouthful (in my best English) and a glare genetically handed down from my Mother and got off the road, on to the footpath, checking my wheelchair like an obsessed person.
French bystanders were extremely concerned and on the phone IMMEDIATELY! to police. The French are very moral, proper, and community minded. They are so extremely and honestly ready to help at any moment that it is quite overwhelming. My first thought though was to just be pissed off with the car driver and get away. I checked out my chair, and just wanted to get back to my hotel (which was somewhere in Paris). So I thanked the bystanders profusely, told them I was OK, and stormed off.
Admittedly, storming off in a wheelchair is as pathetic and has as little impact as hanging up on a mobile phone. Yep.
Then I nearly fell off a curb because I was still so annoyed.
After finding my way to a familiar street, I stomped into my hotel room. I'm pretty good at not holding a grudge though, so after ten minutes of zen time the accident was just an amusing holiday story. So I summoned the Spirit of My Sister Sharon and had the barman make me a Bacardi and coke.
That made life oh so fine!
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