|photo by Julia Aron|
Kim, Sheldon and the boys from Saskatoon drop me off at the moped place after a nice lunch at Pollo Bronco. They wish me well as I bid them adios and step up to the Hertz counter to claim my moped.
The whole process is fairly simple and while I fill out the paper work, I realize my nerves have turned into excitement as I’m ready to have more mobility and most importantly - face my fears. The agent gives me a 30 second tutorial on the workings of the moped. There’s no clutch or gear shifts, so it’s pretty much a stop and go situation – this I can work with!
With the papers out of the way and the shiny blue helmet fastened tightly to my head, I get onto the moped and start it up. My heart is pounding with the excitement of a six year old whose about to take her bike out for its first spin sans training wheels. The moped is parked alongside the main road and in order to get onto the street, I have to get it up and over the curb. I give it some gas and it lurches forward with more power than I expect. The momentum lurches me forward which, in turn, makes me give it more gas. Suddenly it's all happening at once, the moped leaping onto the road, me squeezing the brakes with no success of stopping and finally, driving full speed straight into the souvenir stand directly across from the rental place.
With blankets whipping me in the face and artisan purses flying through the air, I'm finally knocked off the moped as I run right into a 14 year-old girl who’s standing in the rear of the stand and happens to be the souvenir stand owner’s daughter. The bike continues forward and down into a ditch behind the stand while me and the girl are a tangled mess on the ground above.
This is no bueno.
Chaos ensues....everyone is screaming. I'm completely freaked out and not sure if I'm hurt or if the girl's hurt. She's on top of my leg screaming and crying.
Nobody speaks English thus far and um I'm the minority here, ya know? I can't help but worry just a little that the whole scene might turn all Rodney King Mexican style on me at any moment.
A bunch of people pull the moped up and out of the ditch while the mother is screaming and the little sister is hysterical. Finally, an American woman comes up from behind and offers me some coke - as in coca cola. I'm crying uncontrollably nearing the point of hyperventilation while thank goodness, the nice woman with the soda is trying to calm me down.
I keep saying over and over again as if I’m chanting, “I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry,” which of course, nobody understands. And I’m holding the girl, her head in my lap, stroking her head, trying to keep her from moving, just in case she has a spinal injury. Her toe is bleeding, but that’s all that seems to be wrong from where I’m sitting. Fingers crossed.
The ambulance comes and the nice lady who I now know is from Arizona is scrambling around looking for my shoes which apparently came off when I flew off the moped.
The ambulance people lift the girl off me and as they do, I wonder if my leg is broken because it hurts like a mutha! The father of the girl speaks English and is nice enough to say something about my leg being possibly broken as they put me on a stiff board-like stretcher. Once on the board, they strap my leg up to keep it straight and then fasten my head to the board with one of those squishy collar things like on freakin' TV! Nobody's saying much except the nice lady who’s speaking to me in hushed tones telling me, “You’re leg looks okay. It’s going to be okay. Can you feel me scratching your shin?”
She gets my purse and finds only one of my shoes and lays them on my stomach as they're putting me into the ambulance. I lie there, clutching my purse and shoe waiting and crying - I'm so scared. It's awful.
My newfound angel from Arizona comes back, climbs into the ambulance and says, "I'm breaking the rules, but you need to have your other shoe." As she places the dusty Birkenstock on my stomach along side the other one, all I can manage is a desperate whisper between sobs.
"Thank you,” I gulp.
She wishes me well and because I can't move my head, I’m stuck there, waiting - unable to see what’s happening and the worst part is the girl that I ran over is right there next to me in the ambulance.
More waiting and silence and the finally we start moving. My mind is racing and I’m worried that I'm going to end up in a dumpster somewhere clinging to my purse and dusty shoes.
Luckily, we go to the hospital. Though, I use that term lightly. It’s more like an infirmary with stark white walls, antiquated beds and those old-school cloth dividers on wheels – like the ones in M*A*S*H. As they lift me out of the ambulance and onto a gurney, a bunch of people are gathered around the entrance taking pictures of me. I feel like a criminal.
None of the doctors speak English and the panic I’m feeling makes my limited Spanish a dim memory. Shit, I’m so scared I can barely remember English.
They start to hook some bag of something up to me and I manage to ask, “Que est a?" They answer, but I don't understand. All I'm thinking is they're going to drug me and take me to some gringo whorehouse in the middle of nowhere and leave me to die.
Eventually, I find out that it's saline (thanks to the girl’s father) so I say okay. But when they try to give me some medicine and I say, “NO WAY!”
I don't care if I’m bleeding from the head - there is no way I'm taking any medication from this place.
After about four and a half hours, the girl gets stitches in her foot as the doctor motions for me to try and walk. Though it's hard, I can do it and we now know my leg isn’t broken. I’m relieved, but I can’t help feel a little guilty that I, the cause of the accident, am going to limp away with minor scrapes and bruises while the poor girl has to endure stitches in her big toe.
The worst part is that I'm sharing the "emergency room" with her which is kind of uncomfortable. Between the myriad of family members showing up every ten minutes to the dirty looks the mother continues to shoot at me, I’m really grateful that the father is nice enough to try and help with the translation between myself and the doctors. He keeps asking me where I’m staying which, for some reason strikes me odd. He’s a taxi driver and I just ran his daughter over. How do I know he’s not going to come and find me later or worse, send his taxi driver friends after me?
The father steps outside just as the insurance guy comes. He doesn't speak English – shocker. I end up signing a bunch of papers. Fuck if I know what I'm signing and I can't argue because who's going to explain it to me or even know that I'm arguing?
Plus, I'm still waiting for the cops to come and take me away.
The father comes back and explains to me that they're ruling it an accident and insurance will cover the medical stuff. Unfortunately, the mother doesn’t buy the accident part as she continues to stare me down from the other side of the room while the rest of the family happily munches on chicken.
It’s decided that the girl will go to Playa del Carmen and get checked out. When asked, I opt not to go because my leg is feeling better – just stiff. My hand hurts a lot, but I think it’s from the IV. Plus, I just want to get out of there, get some wine, lock myself in the condo and cry.
I finally get to leave and basically walk out of the hospital onto the street. I had no idea where I was and am surprised to find out that I’m fairly close to the apartment.
I take a taxi home, hoping my driver doesn’t know the father.
As I shuffle past the entrance, I’m thrilled to see that my little family here are all sitting around in one of the apartments. Sheldon sees me and calls through the screen door, “How’d the moped go? Did ya kill anyone?”
I limp into the kitchen where they’re all seated and before I can think about holding back the tears, they start to fall with complete abandon.
The horrible events of my day tumble out and everyone is very sweet, feeding me beer and potato ships, while I sniff and sob through the story. Brian tells me he'll take me to Hertz the following day to straighten out the damages. Everyone agrees that I shouldn’t go alone. Once again, I am grateful for these nice people and their kindness.
We say good night and I’m finally back inside Karen’s apartment – sore and exhausted. There’s way too much to process and as I drift off to sleep, I’m torn between the guilt of being the cause of such a terrible accident and the sheer relief I feel for being safe, sound and in one piece.