I left my heart (and my money and car insurance) in San Francisco

A few years ago I was driving with my wife Sharon in San Francisco when the street seemed to strike a vague ominous nerve somewhere deep in the old cerebral cortex. Yes there was the sign, the corner of Van Ness and Bush. I recognized the same cluttered street signage and the half hidden red eyeball behind them. This time I stopped. Last time, a few decades previously, I did not, at least not in time. Then I saw the light and jammed on the brakes. Too late. A fast moving taxi scraped across my front bumper and screeched to a stop.
The cabbie hustled back as I got out of the car.
“Whatya doin? Can’t you see the red light?” He inquired at the top mid range of his voice.
Another top range holler came from across the intersection. A driver jumped out of his stopped car and called, “Don’t let him con you. It was his fault. He swerved into you.”
The Three D’s, our music and comedy trio had just finished a show and were headed for the next one. Denis jumped out of the passenger side of the truck and hustled back to see if Dick, and our instruments and equipment were ok in the camper. The gear was all right, but Dick was all gone.
The cabbie called the police on his car radio phone; no cell phones in those days.
With flashing lights, the police car swooshed up. The officer stepped out, “Any I.D.?” he barked.
“Any idee about what?” I said.
“Ok Rufus. Let’s get on your level. What color is a red light? I’ll give you three guesses.”
That’s what he said in my mind; Mr. Hick staring at the lights of the big city. when he should have been driving. Actually the officer checked my license, and said, “Are you hurt?”
I said, “No.”
He then turned to the cab driver, and asked the same question. The Cabbie began to rub his neck, “I’ll have to get checked over. I have pain in the neck and shoulders.”
The officer said to him, “Whiplash?” in the same tone you’d ask an alcoholic if he would like a drink.
“Could be,” the Cabbie said.
The policeman rolled his eyes back ever so slightly. He and the cabbie both knew that “Whiplash” can pay for your retirement if you play your cards right.
The officer then checked the little old lady in the back seat of the cab. Miraculously she had escaped without a scratch or missing a stitch on her knitting. Apparently the earlier models of the human body were built sturdier.
Meanwhile back on the streets of San Francisco a wandering stranger was enjoying the scenery as it spun around in his head. Dick had been changing out of his show clothes. He was standing one leg in his pants and one poised in the air ready to insert into his traveling togs when I hit the brakes. Travel he did. Smack into the front of the camper, and then woozily out the back door.
Denis went looking for him while I entertained the policeman and the cabbie entertained us both.
The next day I entertained the judge apparently with my imitation of a homicidal maniac at the wheel preying on the people of his fair city. Without my incognito witness who had sped off into the darkness, I could only tell what I thought happened. I saw the light too late, and stopped too far into the intersection. The cabbie didn’t show. I assumed he was in intensive care while his life hung by a thread as did his payout from our insurance.
I paid what I thought was a hefty “Welcome to California, now go home” fine. Our insurance paid to fix the cab, and the cabbie, then dumped us. We decided to live with the dent in our front fender.
It could have been worse. Dick found his way back to the camper. And he had succeeded in getting his other leg into his pants before he took his walking tour of San Francisco. The judge didn’t make me the caretaker of the crippled cab driver for the rest of his life.
So, as always, I’m asking myself, “What did I learn from this experience.” 1. Always, always, always look for red traffic lights no matter how carefully they be hidden among the neon signs. 2. Be wary of streetwise cab drivers. This would include any cab driver who has been on the job more than half a day/night. 3. When in doubt, take responsibility for what you have done even if it costs you. You’ll sleep better.