by Maria Ruiz
Maria often shares stories with us about Santa Barbara history, her travel all over the world, her dogs, and life.
Bang! Crunch! “What did we hit?” my husband yelled as he brought the motor home to a stop.
“It’s a kid!” I yelled back. Looking out the passenger window, I saw a pair of little legs and a bicycle wheel sticking out from under the side.
“WHAT!” he yelled.
The motor home had come to an abrupt stop and he jumped out with me at his heels. We could see part of a bicycle and the legs of a child sticking out from under the steps. A girl of about thirteen emerged from under the RV, and Ted pulled the bike out. The front wheel was bent and it didn’t want to stay up when he tried to stand it by a pole.
Out of nowhere, a crowd was gathering. I looked at the girl and she appeared to have torn her sweater and scratched her arm. Both Ted and I let out a breath of relief at the minor injuries. The girl started to cry and the crowd began to emit a low rumble. I heard “Americanos,” “Si,” “Norte Americanos.”
Our relief was short-lived as someone called out “Policia.”
We had come into this small town to have our motor home examined for the five thousand kilometer check-up all new vehicles needed. The dealership was closed for lunch, so we had decided to drive around and look at the small town.
We had driven by the side of a lovely park and stopped at a red light. I, in the passenger street (and a “pain in the a__” back seat driver), had checked to see that no one was on the sidewalk waiting for the red light to change.
It changed, and Ted slowly pulled out, turning right. Suddenly a loud bang had prompted the question. I could have sworn that there was nothing in the way, but for the moment, I was scared. Ted’s color had drained and together we stood and waited for the POLICIA.
A man appeared and we got the message that he was the girl’s uncle. “Tio.” By now, the crowd was getting heated up, the girl was crying and the uncle was eying us up and down. I swear I could see dollar signs jumping in everyone’s eyes.
The police pulled up and four policemen jumped out. Two got busy measuring with tapes and one was interviewing the girl and her uncle. The fourth was telling us a lot in Italian, and thank goodness a lot of the words were similar to Spanish. We got the message that we were to follow them to the station.
After all the photos were taken, we returned to our seats and slowly followed the official car through the back streets of the town. In front of the station, one officer directed us to a parking spot and we followed them into the station to sit in some seats they pointed to.
After what seemed like hours, but couldn’t have been more than 20 minutes, officers opened a door and came toward us. With hand gestures and slowly spoken Italian words, we got the picture they were painting for us.
We had stopped at the red light. The girl was riding her bike on the sidewalk and as she approached the intersection, saw that the light was turning green. Without looking, she didn’t slow down or stop; she rode her bike into us. Had we hit her, she would have been in the front of the vehicle, not in the middle, where she slid under the motor home behind the front tires. She and her parents were due in tomorrow where they would be fined a large amount for causing the accident. However, every vehicle involved in a traffic accident, at fault or not, is required to pay a fifty-euro fine. We gratefully paid the fine, returned to the vehicle and ever so slowly and carefully drove to the dealership.
That turned out to be the only accident we have ever had in the 120 years of driving we’d logged between us. We could only smile to ourselves as we thought about the girl, her uncle and the crowd thinking that the keys to the bank had arrived, only to find out that there was no gold in them thar Americanos.