August 9, 2011 in City

Preventing head injuries should be a no-brainer

By The Spokesman-Review
 

I was taken aback to read that our Spokane County commissioners (Larry, Moe and Curly) were taking time to “consider” passing a mandatory helmet law for bicyclists, skateboarders and other breezy riders.

Come on. Since when has the commission wasted any time on contemplation?

Remember when the commission (Larry and Moe; Curly hadn’t joined the act yet) bought a racetrack practically under our noses?

More recently, our Republican stacked deck swiftly passed a law making the sales of e-cigarettes illegal to minors. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of any kid ever wanting to buy an e-cigarette.

Besides, aren’t e-cigarettes designed to help people “quit” smoking?

My point is that a helmet law is a no-brainer.

Pass it now, commissioners. Don’t waste another second on pondering or jawboning.

Helmets save lives – that’s been proven a zillion times over.

And this coming from a guy who grew up in a time when wearing a bike helmet would automatically get you beat up or tied to a flagpole and de-pantsed.

Bike helmets were a sure sign of dorkdom.

As a kid, I pedaled my red-and-white Schwinn American through the South Hill with utter joyous abandon. The only thing protecting my skull was the half-inch of unevenly clipped hair thanks to my Old Man, who fancied himself an amateur barber.

Helmets?

We don’t need no stinking helmets!

Then one day I borrowed a buddy’s black Schwinn Sting-Ray that he had adjusted to make it easier to pop wheelies.

Ah, if only he had mentioned that.

I took off down twisty Mount Vernon hill like Speed Racer on crack.

Midway in my madness I leaned back ever so slightly on the banana seat and experienced the eerie sensation of the front tire leaving Earth like John Glenn.

What’s this?

Recollections are somewhat hazy on what happened next.

My pal, who was observing from behind on my trusty American, told me later that I made an admirable although ill-fated attempt to get that pesky tire back down.

Years later, while taking a college poetry class, I read something that sort of put it all into perspective.

“Evening traffic homeward burns,

“Swift and even on the turns …

“But should error be increased.

“Mass and moment are released.”

Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

The Sting-Ray’s tire came down, of course. Everything that goes up, well, you know the rest.

The problem was that the tire landed at a slight angle, which made the bike shoot left at a frightful speed.

I, on the other handlebar, kept going in the same straightforward direction: Over bike and into air.

I’m sure there’s a physics law to explain it.

“Look everyone. I’m flyyyyiiiinnnggg …”

WHAM!!!

I’ve been called “thick-headed” by plenty of readers over the years.

In this case it was a virtue.

My dome struck pavement with a thud reminiscent of a cantaloupe dropped from the Paulsen Building penthouse.

I sat up bleeding from a gashed eyebrow and this strange scrambled sensation in my brain.

“Wow,” said my friend. “One of your eye pupils looks bigger than the other.”

From this point I hand the story over to my sweet mother, Carol. She turns 89 soon but still possesses a computerlike memory for all of my childhood exploits, especially the catastrophic ones.

“Your pupils were both enlarged when we got you to the hospital and they stayed that way through the night,” she said.

“You had a concussion. You worried us sick, you idiot.”

There’s a moral to this tale, my friends.

And that is that every young bicyclist or skateboarder will try from time to time to break the law of gravity.

Fact 1: Daredevilry is a natural part of childhood.

Fact 2: Wearing a helmet lessens the chance of an accident turning out badly.

Or worse.

My mother laughed.

“We thought your brain would never come back. And it didn’t.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.


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