Friday was one of those days at work that just didn’t stop. The phone never stopped ringing; there were a million e-mails asking for basically the same thing but with just enough variation to make your head hurt; and worse yet, the computer didn’t seem to recognize me – and after all this time together!
You ever have one of those days? Where you can’t catch up? Where you don’t know why you do what you do or even if it matters that you do it? I even worked a full hour longer than I should have – and on a Friday!
The spring was just a little out of my step as I left work. Sometimes, things seem so pointless – and I don’t like feeling that way. It goes against my nature to be gloomy.
There was a woman at the bus stop that I noticed right away. She was seated on the raised, over-sized planters. Well, okay, not so much seated. More like slumped. Definitely slumped. Her mouth was open, her eyes half-lidded. She fell over and lay on the ledge of the planter, her purse and a large shopping bag between her feet.
I looked. I looked away. All around us were people. No one else really seemed to notice this woman.
This happens to me a lot. I was once riding the express bus (back when I lived in the ‘burbs) when I looked out the window one early morning to see an elephant. In the snow. A real elephant. I looked around the bus. Other than a girl who seemed to be maybe five, not one other person on the crowded bus saw the elephant in the snow in downtown Minneapolis that morning. The girl and I stared at each other, our eyes wide. I wonder if she remembers that.
The woman struggled upright. Nodded off. Laid back down. Stayed there.
“Hey. You okay?”
She looked at me, like I was far away. She shut her eyes.
What does one do? I looked around at the other people standing there. They noticed me noticing her. They surprised me when they turned away.
Really? We’re going to stand by while someone slumps over unconscious? What is it? Diabetes? Drugs? Drunk? She’s surrounded by people and completely alone. What if someone steals from her? What if she dies?
I walked down the block looking for a cop. Normally you can find one. Not today. I couldn’t take it. If she’s drunk, well, we have rules against being that messed up in public. We don’t sleep in the street. If she’s sick, she needs help.
I called 911, gave the location, described the woman, told them I didn't want her to be hurt. I didn't want someone to steal from her.
My friend Kathryn showed up at that point – I suspect she stalks me – and shortly after that my bus came. Kathryn promised to tell me what happened on Monday.
Sirens sounded and then an ambulance appeared as I climbed onto the bus and found my seat. Kathryn motioned at me through the bus window: Point (you), index finger (number one). We grinned at each other as the EMTs tried to shake the now-non-responsive woman awake. She didn’t move. The EMTs were peering into her face earnestly as the bus pulled away, and I could see no more.
And as strange as it seemed, I wasn’t gloomy anymore. I had forgotten what I was doing here for a while, and then I was reminded: I'm here because I just might be of service.
For that, I am grateful.
8 hours ago