Tuesday 12 August 2008

Asleep at the wheel

This story has nothing to do with Kevin Rudd.

Or Woin Swan.

It actually has to do with someone asleep at the wheel.

I was doing my daily ride today when I pulled up at a set of lights. There were 3 cars in front of me, and I don't believe in doing the old "weave the bike through the traffic to get to the front trick" when it is uncalled for - I just take my place in the queue at the lights and wait for them to go green.

Well, the lights soon went green, and the first two cars took off and went through the intersection. The lights at the corner in question are on very short rotation, so it is unusual for more than 5 or 6 cars to make it through, but the car in front of me just refused to budge.

Not much point in me ringing my bell at a time like that, since no driver is ever likely to hear it. I waited for the woman behind me to start tooting, but I guess she was too polite, or was worried that I would take offense and smash her windscreen with a padlock on the end of a chain.

Not that I ever carry a padlock on a chain, but you never can tell when some goose on a pushbike is likely to go psycho and start breaking glass up and down the street.

Woops, better stick to the story. The lights went red, and the car in front still sat there. I tried peering in through the back windscreen to see if the driver was distracted by yacking on the phone, but there was no sign of that. He just sat there.

So I used the advantage of the bike and went around him. Once in front, I looked back to see what was going on.

His head was down - he was fast asleep.

I pondered what to do - he looked about 75 years old, so the thought suddenly occured to me that he might be dead, or in a coma or having a heart attack or any of those things; but he suddenly started and sat up and realised where he was. At that point, I was looking over his car and the woman in the car behind and doing the old shoulder-shrug thing at her; as in "I have no idea what this bloke is up to, and I don't know what to do next".

Thankfully, he didn't decide to ram the accelerator to the floor at that point, since I had nowhere to go. He just sat up and looked very, very confused.

It took me all of 30 seconds to start considering what I would have done if he didn't wake up when the lights next went green. I'd start by turning around, going back and knocking on his window, then working through the old checklist of how to deal with someone that is unconcious and possibly not breathing. Hell, it's nearly 20 years since I last did the old ABC on a plastic dummy next to the pool - would I be better off spending my time calling an ambulance or trying to do resus?

Geez, I'm glad it didn't come to that. Imagine having to yank an old bloke out of a car at a busy intersection in order to perform mouth to mouth and all of that.

What got me is how long it took me to mentally change gears from, "I am out for a pleasurable ride" to "I have to stop and assist this old dude who might be dying". At least I managed to change gears. All the people around me seemed to be stuck in the "I'm out shopping" gear, and showed no signs of even considering changing into "good samaritan" gear for any reason whatsoever.

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