By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
IT WAS NEARLY 6 P.M. ON A THURSDAY afternoon and Melrose Avenue's Urth Caffe was busy as usual. I'd spent half an hour browsing through the books at the Bodhi Tree next door and was now sipping a Spanish latte on the patio, soaking up the sun. Then, overcome by that twitch from within which, for no apparent reason, alerts you it's time to get going, I packed up and headed to my Jeep Cherokee across the street on Westbourne Drive.
I let one car pass, then stepped off the curb and began traversing the crosswalk. Yeah, I spotted the SUV in the distance but I assumed the driver would stop. He didn't.
Instead, he slammed into the left of me at approximately 27 miles an hour. This part is all a blank, but according to the police report, I was hurled onto the hood before hitting the asphalt and getting "stuck under the right front portion" of the guy's Ford Explorer.
The driver dideventually stop, but only after "realizing that several people on the north sidewalk were waving and yelling," as the police report put it. By then he'd pushed me about 49 feet into the adjacent crosswalk. When I came to, the engine was roaring in my ears, the right tire was looming over me and a crowd of at least 50 had collected around me.
From my horizontal point of view, I could see what looked like a second knee protruding from my left thigh.
"What happened? Am I paralyzed," I remember whimpering.
Immediately, strangers began rifling questions to keep me from losing consciousness. I knew their aim so I answered back and managed to blurt out my boyfriend Mark's work number before the digits could fade from memory.
That's when one of my guardian angels walked into frame, rendering everything else fuzzy. His name was Michael. Later I discovered that he's a 37-year-old writer originally from Germany; at that moment I only noticed his soothing energy: the way he held my hand, smiled, whispered assurances and caressed my face.
Eventually, I recalled that moments prior to impact, Michael and I had been sitting silently next to each other, each of us reading a book. At the hospital he explained how he'd hung around at the café as if he were waiting for something.
There was also Tynne -- the 26-year-old singer who was trailing behind me. With her strong vocal cords, she belted out, "Stop, stop, oh my god call 911, stop."
She was the first one to run over -- even though she believed I'd deflated into a corpse. She's also the one who made the driver initially perk up. She visited too, bringing me a journal with her version of the events.
"When I saw Maryam, I thought to myself, this girl is so beautiful, she can stop traffic anywhere."
So much for that.
And then there was Ben, the owner of Mansour Rugs, a high-end Persian carpet store on Melrose who instantly tried to contact my boyfriend. He was so adamant about getting me the same orthopedic surgeon who'd operated on him that he drove to the hospital himself.
Fortunately, the crash unfolded right around the corner from Cedars-Sinai, one of the best hospitals in the nation. If I'd been hit in Hollywood, let's say, chances are the county would have given me a ghastly scar and a cumbersome cast. (Keep in mind I have no medical insurance. In Canada -- where I come from-- health is ä a god-given right.)
At Cedars, the consequences were simply an exorbitant hospital bill and a treatment that now means I'll literally set off metal detectors. The doctor placed a titanium rod and two bolts inside my thighbone. I also fractured my L-1 vertebrae, four ribs and bruised my tailbone. And I've somehow developed super nasal powers. In the hospital, my sense of smell became so acute I could sniff every friend and nurse who wafted into my room.
Considering the facts, it's a miracle I'm not a paralyzed vegetable. So who cares if I have to use a snazzy $130 walker and an elevated toilet seat for the next six weeks?
I am not even angry with the 47-year-old driver who claims the sun completely erased me from view. (The glare from his dirty windshield didn't help). Once the legalities are settled, I plan to tell him that I harbor no hard feelings. Besides, he is the one who will instant-replay the thud in his head and be reminded of the incident each time he glances at the grill I cracked. (It's ironic how it's not the facts surrounding an accident that matter in this country but the status of the person carrying it out. Meaning, if a suit from 90210 had hit me, I would be a million dollars richer. And if an illegal immigrant from Mexico without insurance were behind the wheel, I'd be shit out of luck. My driver fell somewhere in the middle.)
What does upset me, however, are crosswalks with their inadequately marked paint strips. They are not stop signs, nor streetlights. Two weeks ago, on my way home from the beach in Santa Monica, I noticed a novel crossing with flashing amber lights embedded in the pavement. It resembled an airport landing strip, and one would have to be blind not to see it. My first thought: Why aren't there more of these?