I was driving home to Berkeley last Saturday night with George Cleve, the artistic director of the Midsummer Mozart Festival, and his wife, flutist Maria Tamburrino. We were coming back from Alameda, where we attended a retirement party for our mutual veterinarian, Dr. Alan Shriro of Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital.
As we approached the corner of Dwight Way and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, a bus right in front of us suddenly hit an 18-year-old boy riding a bicycle, sending him crashing to the pavement. The kid was lying crumpled on the ground, crying from pain and fear. He and the bus driver were in a state of shock. The victim struggled to get up, but he couldn't.
Quick as a flash, Maria jumped out of my car and rushed over to him. Putting her arms around him, she comforted him, warning him not to move and reassuring him that he was going to be OK because he was responding clearly to her questions.
It worked. He calmed down and waited for the paramedics to arrive, which didn't take long thanks to some other heroes on the scene. They were a half-dozen guys from In-And-Out Burger, not much older than the victim. They were wearing their In-And-Out Burger shirts and hats and riding in their In-And-Out Burger cookout trailer.
As soon as they arrived on the scene, they immediately took charge. One young man called 911, while the others fanned out, laying flares and directing traffic away from the accident. Thanks to their quick action, the paramedics soon showed up and took over. They ascertained that the boy wasn't hurt too badly, but they decided to take him to the hospital anyway just in case.
And me? What did I do to help?
Absolutely nothing. While the guys from In-And-Out Burger were taking care of business, I was still fumbling with my cell phone, trying to figure out how to call 911. I had panicked, and I was useless.
I'm not trying to beat myself up -- I think my discombobulation was a common reaction -- I'm just trying to say that if you have any doubts about the younger generation, don't. As The Who used to sing, "The kids are alright."
FOOT TRAFFIC JAMS: OK, having said that, let me warn you: Don't drive anywhere near Berkeley High School at noontime or 3 p.m., when school lets out.
You could find yourself trapped for a half-hour -- and often even longer -- in a sea of students who keep crossing the street nonstop, regardless of the traffic lights. And there's nothing you can do about it. They just keep coming. And coming. And coming. And you keep waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
I don't blame the kids; I blame the school administrators. They've received tons of complaints, especially from local merchants, but they haven't lifted a finger to try to solve the problem.
I don't know if it's because they lack jurisdiction over what the kids do once they step off campus, or if it's because they don't have the money to hire crossing guards. But would it be asking too much for them to hold a school assembly and educate their students on the importance of being good neighbors?
Reach Martin Snapp at firstname.lastname@example.org.