Saturday, February 26, 2005

What to expect if you get hit by a car in Osh

Around 5:30 this evening I was walking home from aerobics. It was still light out and the weather was beautiful, the dark fog of yesterday revealing a beautiful blue sky today.

I was walking down Kurmanjan Datka, one of the main streets in town, and had just passed Suleymane mountain, the main sight in town, and the associated complex at the base of the hill. I was thinking how ragtag the buildings looked and wondered why the government didn’t invest in sprucing up their prime tourist attraction. Or maybe it just looks better naturally in the summer, I thought.

Just then, I heard a screech behind me that I immediately identified as an accident. I turned around to look and saw something falling from the top of a car. At first I thought it was a bag of goods, but I soon enough identified it as a human. He rolled over the windshield, I saw his head hit the street, as though in slow motion, and then he rolled into the gutter at the side of the road.

The car stopped, as did I, as I looked in shock. I thought the man would be dead, and was happily relieved, when I saw him sit up, dazed, his head dripping blood.

I didn’t know what to do. I pulled out my cell phone, thinking I’d call information and ask for the number for emergencies. A crowd quickly began to form around the scene, those who saw it happen looking agape, those who didn’t seeing the evidence in the dazed and bleeding man, and looking concerned. Before I was able to make the call, the driver of the car and his companion went to the injured man, led him into the backseat of their car, pushed the cracked plastic windshield back into place, and took off.

Hey, this isn’t a bad country, I thought. They could have run away, but instead they immediately got the guy and were going to get him help. I was really happy to see that. The image of the accident had been disturbing, but I hoped he’d get help quickly and would be OK.

I was very surprised when I saw the same car stopped at the side of the road about two blocks ahead. I wondered if they needed help. Maybe the driver couldn’t see through his cracked windshield. I was ready to pay for a taxi to get the guy to the hospital. So I crossed the street and walked over to the parked car. I saw that they were dabbing the injured man’s bloody face with a handkerchief and talking to him.

“What are you doing sitting here?” I asked the driver through the front window that no longer existed. “You need to get him to a hospital.”

“We’re going to the hospital,” he said.

I stood there and watched them until he pushed the windshield back up, turned on his blinkers, and went. But he didn’t go in the direction of the hospital.

I wondered if I should just give up at that point. But something led me to follow the direction he’d gone. Sure enough, I hadn’t even gone another block when I saw the car stopped again, this time where a policeman stood.

Again, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Oh good, I thought. They’ve stopped and led the police know what happened. They will get help.

I saw the police leading the driver and his companion over to another car, leaving the injured man alone in the backseat. Again, I went over to try to get him help.

First I went directly to the man, to see if he wanted a taxi. But the car doors were locked and I couldn’t open them. When I told the people standing there that this guy needed help, they said they police were detaining the driver. So the driver hadn’t stopped voluntarily. The policeman had seen someone driving with a cracked windshield and stopped them.

I went over to the policeman, who was looking at the driver’s documents and copying down information. I told him that the man was hurt and first priority was to get him to the hospital.

“We’re going to the hospital,” the driver told me. “No problem.”

“The hospital is that way,” I said, pointing in the other direction.

“There is another hospital in Cheriomuha, where we live. We’ll take him there.”

I was starting to doubt him.

I walked back to the car with them, hesitant to leave before I knew the man would get help. Who knew, the policeman could ask for a big bribe and let them do whatever they wanted.

By this time, the injured man got out of the car and asked for a cellphone. There was a man nearby who seemed concerned, but he said his cellphone had run out of minutes.

“I have one,” I said. The concerned man dialed a number and handed it to the policeman. They said they were calling the medical attendants and that they would come to pick up the injured man.

The driver looked concerned that the call was being made.

“He says he and the injured man are relatives and that they will take care of things,” the concerned man told me.

“No, they are not relatives,” I said.

“Then they must have made an agreement.”

So that was what they were doing when they’d stopped the car. First, they’d taken the injured man away from any witnesses (except me). Then they tried to mop up some blood to make him look better. And finally, they agreed with him to say he was a relative. Anybody in his shape who finds themselves alone in the backseat of the offender’s car is going to agree to anything.
I didn’t see the moment of impact. I don’t know whether the man stepped out suddenly into the street or whether he was crossing normally and the driver just wasn’t looking. But the driver was definitely moving at a good speed and he almost killed another human being. I found it sickening that instead of getting him immediately to the hospital (which was only about three blocks away) he was thinking about his own interests. My goal in interfering was to try to get the injured man the medical help he needed. But if it so happens that now the driver will have problems with the police, I don’t feel bad about that.

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