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The joys of being on foot & getting hit in a parking lot

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POSTED May 3, 2017 1:09 a.m.

He was laughing. And it angered me.
Seconds earlier my granddaughter Katelyn had pounded on the trunk of his car yelling at him to stop.
I had my back to the car in question bending over slightly loading groceries from the shopping cart into the back of my Ford Escape. We were in the parking lot of Food 4 Less on Saturday.
As I heard Katelyn yell I stood up slightly just as his bumper hit the back of my leg and sent my right knee cap into my back bumper. Lucky for me urethane bumpers have been standards on cars for years.
The next thing I knew I was vocalizing the pain shooting through my knee while Katelyn was yelling at the guy to stop as he started to drive off.
I started limping gamely moving around testing my knee. It hurt but it wasn’t damaged. If anything it amplified the fatigue I had from the day after taking in a group exercise class in Tracy and then hiking 10 miles above Redwood City that involved a gain of 2,900 feet and the five hours of driving it took to get to and from both places. I figured I’d survive with just a slight bruise.
Meanwhile the driver — he gets points for stopping and not driving off — got out of his car.
The first thing he said, was “sorry, I didn’t see you.”
I assumed he hadn’t because that would have meant he was aiming for me.
I looked up grimacing a tad in pain when the absurdity of what he said struck me. He was backing out of a stall in a parking lot in a compact car. How could he not know there were other cars? Then it dawned on me if it hadn’t been for Katelyn and my standing behind my car he would have hit the Escape.
I don’t know why realizing that irked me more than the fact he had just hit my leg while he was backing up.
He started laughing. It confirmed what Katelyn had voiced. He was slightly wasted if not more so. Granted, it was a nervous laugh but I was in no mood for such a reaction.
Perhaps two breaths later, I raised my voice close to the edge of yelling and told him “to get the hell out of here.”
He left.
Not a normal reaction, you might think, but this wasn’t my first rodeo of getting bumped or brushed by a car while on foot. It was my third. And I have had plenty of near misses of people cutting in front of me and cutting behind my heels when I’m well into a crosswalk. But the big difference when I’m walking or running is that I’m constantly looking for the minority of drivers oblivious to pedestrians, paying homage to their smartphones, who are slightly wasted or the rare few that are 10-karat jerks behind the wheel.
The most serious contact with a car while on foot was last year while jogging westbound on the sidewalk in front of the Chevron on Yosemite and Spreckels when a westbound car — that I had seen not moving in the turn lane seconds early — turned to go into the driveway from behind me just as I entered it. He ended up pulling right in front of me as I was midway across. Fortunately I’m never going to win any foot races which meant I had time enough to brace myself before I made contact with his driver’s door. At the same time he slammed on the brakes. As he was coming to a stop I ended up rolling off his trunk, losing my footing, and made a somewhat soft landing on the sidewalk with minimal abrasions and bleeding.
The driver was a young guy, perhaps 18 if that. He kept apologizing over and over again that he was sorry that he didn’t see me. That time I was a bit calmer as I didn’t resort to profanity but I didn’t hesitate to tell him that it could have been different if I was a little kid or an elderly person. (OK, who am I fooling? I was 60 at the time so to him I was an elderly person.) At any rate I was on my way with a new lesson hammered into me — never to relax my guard when it looks like someone has stopped for me who could end up making a left turn into a driveway I’m crossing.
Most of my near misses involve people rolling through stop signs coming out of parking lots and cutting in front of me with three or so feet to spare after I’m more than halfway across the street using a crosswalk.
The worst near miss was 10 years ago jogging on the dirt edge of a yard on the shoulder of Austin Road between Louise Avenue and Highway 120 facing traffic and heading south. I never wear ear phones and tend to be a bit untrusting so when I heard a weird sound behind me I was prepared for something to happen.
What happened was a car of five teens swerved across the road and coming up behind me on the shoulder with three of them — including the driver — hanging out the windows and laughing as they kicked up dirt and then swung back into the southbound lane.
I admit it. They got the finger.
That said the vast majority of drivers out there are courteous and attentive. But I can say without a doubt that as I walk and jog I see more and more people driving who are looking down at smartphones.
Distracted driving is no laughing matter.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.

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