I felt a jerk, and yes, it was a real jerk

It happened the morning after the long Presidents Day weekend. There's nothing like a long weekend to make a Tuesday morning every bit as grim as a Monday morning.

Not that I'm complaining about having a long weekend, especially for one of the minor holidays we celebrate with low, low prices on mattresses. When I worked at newspapers, I spent many Christmases in the newsroom, eating stale cookies and reading my co-workers' cards while wearing my electric sweater. Magical.

The morning after Presidents Day, I stopped at the GetGo for a big cup of coffee and joined the scrum on Fifth Avenue. Most people I know avoid Fifth Avenue, but it's the only place in the city where you can get through three or four consecutive lights without having to stop. Even the pedestrians display a rare sense of urgency when jaywalking.

I lost my synchronized momentum and stopped at a red light. I raised my coffee from the cup holder and sipped it. I was replacing it to prepare for a green light when


Coffee everywhere.

I looked in the rearview mirror to see who had plowed into my car. A middle-aged guy in a silver sedan. My neck woke up screaming.

If an accident is anything less than terrifying, it's just a total nuisance. Starting with having to shoulder your way through two lanes of traffic to find someplace to pull over so you can be late for work having this unpleasant conversation with the guy who is, of course, following behind me and will have to ...

Execute a quick left turn and disappear.

The coffee hadn't even finished soaking into my upholstery, and the miscreant had decamped, taking his license plate with him.

He hit me pretty hard, and he might have seriously hurt me. That's probably why he bolted. As it turns out, neither I nor the car were badly hurt. But I was severely annoyed and disgusted. What kind of jackass crashes into a car stopped at a red light and takes off? I realize it was Mardi Gras, but it was also 9:30 a.m. in Pittsburgh. Only the most dedicated would be drunk.

Did he have no insurance? I wonder. Is this a recession thing, that people can't afford their insurance premiums but also can't afford to stop driving? He was on Fifth Avenue in Oakland, which tells me that if he had no insurance, he could have been on a bus. I, for one, wish he had been.

At least he wasn't visibly on the phone. I wouldn't have tried to pull over. I would have gotten out, marched back to his car and pulled him out through his own air vents.

It's probably not a recession thing, just a jackass thing. More evidence of the galloping decline of Western civilization you've heard so much about. I was trying to Google up some stats on hit-and-run accidents and I ran across an item that made me feel lucky: A 90-year-old lady on a sidewalk in England was struck down from behind by a mobility scooter.

As she and her two friends lay sprawled and injured, according to The Daily Echo, the driver asked, "Didn't you hear my hooter?"

"Thank goodness it happened outside the pub," victim Eileen Butt said. Mrs. Butt and friends were revived with tea. The scooter hooter left before ambulances arrived.

What kind of barbarian goes screeching around town recklessly on a mobility scooter? Who was that guy who left me with pools of coffee and a pain in the neck?

If I could find him, I'd like to see him get more than a bruised Butt.

First Published 2012-03-07 23:05:21