Brooklyn Fit Chick Vintage Post:
“Why I Wear a Helmet” (2010)
Having just found out that this is National Ride Your Bike to Work Week—I wanted to repost something I wrote three years ago and is a subject close to my heart—the reason I always wear a bike helmet.
Thanks for letting me take this trip down amnesia rode once again!
First—here is a picture of my bike along with the two (count ‘em two) bike helemets I own. Never do I leave the apartment for a ride without putting one of them on. Never!
Growing up, my generation did not bother with helmets, elbow and/or knee pads or enforced adult supervision. We were the latch-key, forgotten generation who boldly (and often stupidly) embraced dangerous activities without a second thought.
Anyhoo, way back when I was the rare tenth-grader who craved responsibility & structure and actively looked for an afterschool job but was too young to legally be hired anywhere. So I took my sincerity and youthful optimism and volunteered as a “Candy Striper” at the Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital in Malvern, PA. (Shout out!)
For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about—Candy Stripers were young gals who were basically interns for hospitals and available to help out the hospital staff by handing out magazines, taking patients on their daily walk, playing cards, and pretty much do whatever the nurses ordered– ahem, I mean asked us to do.
If you are wondering why they were called Candy Stripers, it was because our bitchin’ uniforms that resembled a candy cane (from Getty Images)
Ugh, the memories are coming back now. This is probably the least flattering uniform for any profession. (Shudders)
Back to my story, my wing held the head-trauma patients and my job (which I took very seriously) was to hang out with them in between their doctor’s appointments and rehabilitation sessions. That could mean playing board games, watching TV, walking around the hospital grounds or as with my favorite patient–listen to records. (Records—yes, CDs were on the market but the hospital could not afford a “boom box” to play them.)
The patient whom I remember most clearly (and therefore was my favorite) was named Alice and she was 17-years old, had a boyfriend and a driver’s license which automatically made her seem cool as shit to 15 year-old me. Alice was very a beautiful girl and her parents described her as a “handful” on the count of her habit of sneaking out of the house to take midnight rides with her boyfriend who owned a motorcycle. (The coolness just kept piling on!)
Why was Alice a patient in the head trauma unit? From what I was told, one day while going on an actual parent-approved date, Alice’s boyfriend hit a wet patch of leaves which caused his cycle to slide under a car (he was uninjured) while she was flown (head-first) right into the sidewalk. Without a helmet. In essence, Alice woke up one day as a “normal” high school senior and by that afternoon was left with the intellectual ability of a nine-year old.
A nine-year old with fits of temper and terrible headaches. Her short-term memory was practically nil; in fact I had to continually introduce myself to her for months. Alice’s muscle coordination was compromised to the point where at the end of the day she would develop a noticeable limp and her right shoulder would stoop down into her chest.
Alice loved to listen to music and thought I was the coolest person ever because I was always bringing “new” records during my shift. Actually I only owned three but she could never remember what I brought the week before so as far she was concerned, I was a musical Santa Claus!
After several months of weekly visits, Alice was finally getting to the point where she would remember me, my name and the day I was due to be there. She would jump around and grab my arm excitedly when we would have the rec room to ourselves for “record time!”
Hands down her favorite was “Journey’s Greatest Hits” and her favorite song was their ballad Who’s Cryin’ Now. As soon as the last guitar note would fade away she would shuffle over, pick up the needle and play it again. And each time her eyes would be closed as she listened very carefully to the beginning notes of the piano.
This happened so often the doctors, nurses, janitors and patients would take turns pleading with me and Alice to “please, please play another song!” To this day, I have a clear image of a young girl desperately trying to remember the lyrics and clapping clumsily off beat to the magic that was 80’s Journey.
Almost six months to the day she was admitted to the center Alice had a seizure and was transferred to another facility. I was desperate to find out her condition but no one could offer a conclusive prognosis.
This completely threw me off because up until that time I thought doctors and hospitals had the answers for every ailment and injury imaginable. When I questioned her physician about her chances of ever getting better he shrugged his shoulders and said “Who knows? It’s a head injury.”
As he walked past me he added “You never want two things kiddo: you never want to be burned and you never want a head injury. All bets are off with either one.” Never forgot that.
Please promise me you will always wear your helmet as well.
Brooklyn Fit Chick
PS: This one’s for you Alice—wherever you may be.