The Thunker - Sarah Donohoe

LaRue Bell was your average middle-aged dude walking down the street on a cold, snowy Wednesday in February. But that changed in an instant when he ran smack-dab into a parking meter and somebody happened to catch it on candid camera.

Mr. Bell was in downtown Kansas City for the Chiefs Super Bowl victory parade, along with several hundred thousand other Chiefs fans. One of the double-decker busses—shrink-wrapped in Chiefs red—was carrying the Man of the Year, Patrick Mahomes with a football in his hand. He randomly spotted Bell on the sidewalk, aimed, and fired the perfect pass directly in front of his intended receiver. Bell, a former high school football player, took a couple of quick steps forward to receive the ball when **WHAM! ** he ran into a parking meter, hard. Bell’s not a small guy but the parking meter did not budge and he bounced off the meter and fell onto his back, spread eagle. He was down for the count (I know, wrong sport) for several minutes before he was able to get up and walk away. To make matters worse, somebody dashed over to where Bell got tackled by the meter, snatched up the football and ran away with it.

If you are one of the more than seven million viewers who watched this scene online, you probably laughed at the slapstick absurdity of a man running full-force into a parking meter. I know I did. But I also groaned in pain as I remembered my own experience meeting a metal pole planted in cement.

I had just been to view the contemporary art on exhibit at the Pompidou in Le Marais neighborhood of Paris. We were walking back to our flat a few blocks away, reviewing what we’d seen at the museum, discussing which were our favorite pieces of art there and also rehashing our near miss with the pickpocketing gypsies outside the museum. It was a cool but sunny June day and our pace was brisk. I was chattering away, looking everywhere but directly in front of me, when **WHAM! ** (you’ve seen that before) I ran head-on, full-force into a metal post with a tennis-ball sized globe on top of it.

These posts, called les bittes de trottoir (literally meaning bollard of pavement), line many of the sidewalks in Paris and no one seems to know why. Some believe they keep cars from parking—or even driving—on sidewalks intended for pedestrians. Others believe they keep pedestrians from straying into streets where cars can be dangerous to those on foot. What I know for sure is that they can do physical harm to cars that run into them and to people who likewise ram into them, like I did.

When I had my straight-on collision with a Paris sidewalk post, the globe that topped the post made contact with me right about where my ribs come together. A loud, low, guttural grunt was forced from my lips and every bit of air in my lungs was knocked out of me. I staggered backward and doubled over, unsure of the potential damage to my frame. (I did have some bruising the next day but I was fine).

Poor LaRue Bell must weight three times what I do and he was moving fast when he confronted the parking meter, which was taller than the post I ran into. The damage to Mr. Bell could have been extensive. He had a great attitude about it and laughed right along with the millions of viewers who saw the encounter online. Bell said he was sore the next day, but the big setback for him was that he didn’t get to catch—or keep—the football thrown to him by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. I hope Patrick Mahomes will offer to set up a replay with a slightly different—and super— outcome. LaRue Bell deserves it.

(Google “man runs into parking meter” and you can view the parade play too.)

You may let The Thunker know what you think at her e-mail address,

© 2020 Sarah Donohoe

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