Photo © 2010 R.D. Girvan
P.D. Day © 2011 R.D. Girvan
If you drive 30 minutes (40 in the Winter) NW of Edmonton, you’ll arrive at the small town of Onoway, Alberta. If you know it or of it, you’ll probably agree; it is small. Sleepy. Very quiet, mostly, except when multitudes of motorcyclists arrive for a famous pig roast which used to happen on May long, or August long or perhaps on the Labour Day long weekend. This year, it was on all three.
Today was Friday September 20th, 2013. When I went to town to run an errand, I noticed a different kind of hubbub surrounding a motorcycle. There was a police cruiser parked on one of the main streets, by the pizza joint. This restaurant is named “Burger Baron”, but, since a) Rocky owns it and b) his burgers are good but his pizzas are better, we all call it “Rocky’s Pizza.” Beside the cruiser was a fire department ambulance, one of those sturdy red first response trucks that look like the coolest die cast truck ever, all grown up.
If you’ve never spent time in a small town, you have to realize that sirens are so rare out there that when the Fire Department pulls out of their Hall, people go to the window to see who’s driving the truck. Two emergency vehicles beside each other means a serious event.
I asked the water store guy what had happened. “Oh,” he said, sighing, “I’ve already told this story to so many people…” But he filled me in as he filled our reverse osmosis containers.
A 3 wheeled motorcycle had driven over the rail road track and something had fallen off. The driver stopped and went back to get it. The trike started to move, so the passenger attempted to apply the brake. They must have engaged the throttle instead, for the trike took off over the tracks, screamed through the four way stop, blew past the nail salon, jumped the curb and crashed into a pipe guard that separates Rocky’s from its parking stalls. Cue the sirens—and the neighbours.
My friend at the water store said he thought no one had been hurt. One of the motorcyclists had been taken away in an ambulance (a THIRD emergency response vehicle!) but had walked to it without assistance.
In my mind’s eye, I could see the look on the driver’s face, as he bent down to pick up the errant motorcycle part, turning around to see his trike leaving him, him running after it. I can see the trike in slow motion as it made its dash for freedom and bucked off the passenger. I imagined what could have happened if the traffic guard had not been there, and the trike slammed into the restaurant. I can almost hear the crash, plastic shattering off the bike and the siding crumpling against the fender. By then the momentum would have been mostly spent, and I envisioned a cartoonish man in the bathroom at that end of the building, reading the news, answering the dull crumping thud of impact with a cheery, “Occupied!”
As I drove home, I realized what could have happened. What should have happened, really, on this sunny September Friday afternoon. At 4:08 p.m. On a Professional Development Day.
There was one thing that should have been present, but was thankfully, serendipitously, absent: all the kids.
There was no school today. There were no knots of children lining the sidewalk to be run over, no little brothers straggling behind older sisters walking with their friends. No groups of boys watching girls giggle over cell phones, no boarders, no jocks, no geeks. No students walking home, none heading from the Library to the Bank or the Bigway grocery store. No one on their way to the candy counter at the Shell gas station (which we all still call “the Tempo” ). Thank goodness.
On a different Friday, this could have been an horrific accident, instead of an amusing “you shoulda seen it!” traffic story. I guess it’s true; life can turn on a dime. Perhaps comedy and tragedy are fraternal twins. And timing really IS everything.