I rolled up to the office building like I had done probably a thousand times before. The building has a three story parking garage attached to it, each level adjoining the three story office building. The building itself has a hill next to it, and there are entrances to the different levels of the garage off of the hill. To get to the second story, I had to ride past the entrance to the first story and turn in before the top of the hill that leads to the third level.
I was working on autopilot. The upcoming hour looked to be so routine that one of the only variables was going to be what kind of snacks the company was going to have in their candy tray. I rode through the parking garage, dismounted my bike, and leaned it against the same wall that it had leaned against so many times before. At this point in time Pittsburgh was a safe place for bikes. I routinely went weeks without actually locking my bike. This building was as safe as it got, so I rode up, dismounted a few feet from the door and started walking.
At the time most guys wore helmets at work. Occasionally somebody would be spotted cruising around without, but it was pretty standard to have one. I liked the vibe a lot of the seasoned messengers gave. One common saying was, “Don’t be a hero.” Basically this was saying, “It is not worth dying to deliver a zip disk to a design firm for a deadline.” Previously in the year, a veteran messenger was hit by a speeding car, and almost paid the ultimate price for it. After that, it seemed most guys at work were especially cautious.
So I dismount my bike and am walking the five steps to the door.
Then I am on the ground with people around me shouting.
The first thing that I remember hearing was, “Don’t move him, his neck could be broken.” Fuck. I remember hearing my dispatcher over the radio talking to somebody, and the sound of an ambulance in the background. I guess I was out for a bit of time. The clients were some of the people huddled around me. There were three of them in the office, they were always kind to us. I felt embarrassed, but still had no idea how I ended up on the ground, what knocked me out, or how badly I was injured.
The paramedics quickly arrived. At this point I realized that I must have been unconscious long enough for somebody to call 911, and for them to be there already. I figured this to be at least a few minutes. As the EMTs stabilized me to a backboard, they asked questions that I had heard on TV before. “Can you wiggle your toes? Can you move your feet…” I fought back the tears that were building up in my eyes. I didn’t want to cry in front of this crowd of people. The tears started rolling down my cheeks anyway. “Yes. Yes.” I knew these were the good answers to these questions.
Then I heard somebody telling the paramedics the reason I was laying there on the ground wearing a messenger bag, bike shoes, and a bike helmet. “Somebody dropped that brick from the third story right onto his head.” Fuck.
It turns out that the maintenance man for the building was moving a wall from the third story parking garage to the second. Apparently there was a giant pile of Belgian block above me that I obviously could not see from below. As the story goes, the man looked over the railing, saw nobody there, picked up a block and dropped it over the edge. In the time that he was bending over to pick up the roughly cubic foot sized block I quietly rode up on my bike and hopped off. He released the brick without ever even seeing or hearing me. Common sense says that maybe he should have put up caution tape, or a sign, or used a wheelbarrow. I had seen the maintenance man practically daily for the previous five years, and had always thought he was kind of rude. He never acknowledged me or had ever been remotely cordial. Now he dropped a fucking brick on my head.
So I am taking my first ambulance ride, with my body strapped to a backboard, including my forehead. The paramedics are asking me questions about insurance, allergies, next of kin, etc. I was so overwhelmed that I could barely answer any of