I was walking home this evening and waiting for a green walk signal at the most dangerous intersection I encounter every day, where Calea Dorobantilor crosses Bulevardul Iancu de Hunedoara. Fooled by that sense of detached isolation that can occur behind the wheel and sucked in by the free-for-all feeling of a wide open intersection of six and eight lanes crossing, drivers there consistently display the most reckless and irrational acts of aggression and competition as they race against oncoming traffic and soar the wrong way along the empty tracks of trams. Just about every day I see children and women with baby carriages waiting to cross and can barely look at them as a cold fear strikes at me and tells me not to watch.
Today was no different. It was rush hour this evening and I was waiting in the median for the green light to walk north and watching the cars in front of me crowd to a stop. A tram was approaching from my left heading to the station and I watched as a man about 60, in a tan shirt and carrying a leather briefcase, was winding his way through three lanes of stopped traffic in front of me. As he peered up to his right and saw the tram coming, he suddenly darted forward and into the empty next lane just as a white car came along traveling quickly from his left. There was no time to shout. And just as the tram blocked the man from my view, I heard the unmistakable crunching sound that a car makes when it has hit something hard.
I turned my head away even though the tram still blocked my view. I did not want to see. In fact, I considered for a moment returning the other way and never looking back. The tram had not moved though I saw that the lane of traffic had stopped and a crowd of people were staring. And as the light changed to green and the tram slid away, I somehow against my wish found the courage to look. There I saw to great relief that the man was conscious and unbloodied, surrounded by two or three people who were wrapping his knee in some cloth and helping him sit upward on the ground. A young woman stood there and was talking on a phone.
I hesitated to move, debating several thoughts in my head, until finally the right one won out. I stayed, not to help, as there was nothing I knew to do, but to tell the police what happened and explain who had which lights and about the man dashing for the tram.
I waited several minutes. There was a woman about 65 standing next to me looking very worried and holding the hand of a small girl who had been crying. The woman’s husband, the driver, was still standing in the street with one or two men and the young woman on the phone. I got a bit of candy for the young girl to try to make her feel less worried and I went to the young woman to ask if she spoke English. It was clear she was in charge. She said yes, just a little, and I told her what I’d seen. I asked if she had been in the car and she said no, she had been waiting for a tram and had also witnessed the accident. We agreed I should stay and wait for the police and she said she would wait for the ambulance as she was the one who made the call.
As we waited, this young woman, who appeared to be in her mid-20s and was well-dressed in jeans, never left the street. She directed traffic to one side and comforted the man. She said a few things to one or two others who also remained there helping. And as other people stopped, including the next tram driver, she was the one everyone came to when they had a question or suggestion. It took about 15 minutes or so for the ambulance to arrive and the man, still fully conscious, was taken away.
This young woman stayed a bit longer and we talked for a few minutes. I thought she might have been a nurse and that’s why she helped, but she said no, she was not a nurse, her job involved doing some scientific research I didn’t quite understand. She waited about 20 minutes and then she apologized for the fact that she had to leave as she was already late for a meeting. She again waited for her tram and then went on her way.
It took another 30 minutes or so for the police to arrive and get the details from the driver. A gracious and pleasant policeman asked me a few questions and shook my hand in thanks.
And as I walked away, relieved that no one died or was too seriously injured, I must admit I found myself happy in a most unexpected way that the accident had occurred. Because for a moment today a refreshing example of humanity from a young woman named Ramona arrived on the streets of Bucharest and I was grateful I was there.