Back when I was assigned to Fort Meade I had a motorcycle, a little Suzuki GS400 that was about 10 years old then. Great bike until a Yugo pulled out in front of me without looking and…well, you should have seen the other guy, but the bike was totaled. And me, I was on crutches (right knee between my fuel tank and his fender) and dizzy for days (impact head first with the pavement but…helmets save lives).
But that’s not the story I’m talking about today.
Fairly early in my ownership of that bike I ran down to one of the local malls. Now, the bike has this lock on the side of the seat where you can hang your helmet. The “D” rings that are used to secure the strap when you’re wearing it hang on a latch and the lock secures it in place.
I come out of the mall sometime later and…no helmet. I see the D rings hanging from the latch but the helmet is gone. Apparently someone cut the strap and absconded with the helmet. Of course, by cutting the strap they rendered the helmet useless since it would come right off in an accident. They just basically stole themselves an oversize and cumbersome paperweight. So they weren’t even getting any benefit from the theft, ending up with a worthless piece of plastic.
Why do people do things like that?
I had recently gotten contacts and couldn’t drive back without something to shield my eyes from the wind. I ended up buying a cheap pair of sunglasses. And once I got back to the dorm I had a spare helmet so I was good to go for the future.
Of course, I do know why people do things like that. Some people are just…broken. They’ll steal something just because they can, whether or not they actually get any return from it or not. Probably stuck on a shelf somewhere as some kind of “coup marker” until later forgotten about and thrown out. The other possibility is that someone thought he could pawn the helmet for the price of his next fix and didn’t realize by cutting that strap he was rendering the helmet worthless. But that’s just a different form of broken.
Another incident, later (after the motorcycle was totaled) I was doing my shopping trip by bicycle. On the way back to post I was hit by a car. I have no memory of the incident. I remember waking up first in the hospital at Fort Meade–Kimborough Army Hospital. Then, later, I woke up again at Walter Reed. Broken collarbone, concussion (duh, I was rendered unconscious). Some cuts on my face. And something happened to my other knee this time. My clothes had been cut off so when I was returned to post it was wearing hospital scrubs. Well, since my clothes at the time consisted of a bicycling jersey and shorts and I wasn’t going to be riding for some time (never did learn what happened to my bike–or what was left of it) it wasn’t a great loss.
From the injuries, it looks as though I was struck from the left, probably by an overtaking car, and then knocked to the right where I hit the pavement.
Okay, it was an accident. These things happen except I’ve managed to avoid them happening every other place I’ve ever been. (If I have to offer any driving advice it’s “Stay away from Laurel, MD.”) The weird part was when I tried to track down what happened. My first stop was the NCOOD–that’s the NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) Of the Day. That’s a slot that has someone all duty on all times to, well, among the duties is to field calls like the one from the police about my being in an accident and transported to the hospital.
The NCOOD report was very brief. It said I’d been in an accident and transported by ambulance to Kimborough. That’s it. It didn’t name any officers, refer to any actual police reports, or even name which police department made the call.
So, I start calling the various police departments. There was the Laurel police, since I was going to Laurel to pick up things. Some of what I was going to pick up was my “pick list” of comics from a comic store. I was able to confirm that I had picked them up and, therefore, had been on my way back to post when I was in the accident.
Laurel police had no record of the incident.
So next I try the Prince Georges County police. Laurel is in Prince Georges County. No report.
Anne Arundel County police. Fort Meade is in Anne Arundel County. No report.
State Police. No report.
That covered every department whose jurisdiction I could have gone through.
Nobody had any report that a serviceman had been hit by a car and taken to the hospital.
I was never able to find out what happened. I didn’t remember the incident. I was never able to learn who hit me because I was clearly hit by a car. There’s no way a “single vehicle accident” could have led to the injuries I had, not on that route. And there really was only one route as well.
So I was always left to wonder: was the car in the incident owned or driven by somebody with the clout to squash the report. This was in the Baltimore/Washington corridor after all? Or was this simply incompetence/laziness on the part of the civilian police, not bothering to do paperwork once they passed me back to the Army, figuring I was their problem then. I don’t know. Never will know.
Maybe if I’d been able to find out who hit me I could have won a substantial settlement which would have…dramatically changed how my life went after leaving the military a month later. Again, that’s in the “we’ll never know” category.
One thing I have learned from these incidents, however: Stay away from that part of Maryland.