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Saturday, October 4, 2008

In Case I Forget Again

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.


Judy said...

Great post. I am so glad you did something for that poor woman. I don't know why people today just don't want to get involved or tell themselves they don't have the time to help a person in need. This shows you are a caring person and care about other people. You also received something in return for your good deed.

ugich konitari said...

Pearl, 38 years ago, while in grad school at UCI, i roomed for a summer with someone who was teaching psychology at NYU. She told me about a famous Kitty-Genovese case in NY city ,which consisted of a lady Kitty who was murdered in a crowded locality in broad daylight, and folks simply stood around, and looked out from windows and landings. And did nothing.

Maybe the more prosperous we get, the more the money blinds.

I am SO glad you decisively proved that wrong.

And I hope the lady is OK....

Lilly's Life said...

Pearl thank goodness for you. Why are people so uncaring. My daughter had a similar story when she was in London. A guy slipped on ice and hit his head and was out cold. People literally walked over him. She rang an ambulance. We need more people like you Pearl in the world. As for computers - just no loyalty - they're all the same.

Cess said...

wow, that s cool u did something useful, to be honest i don t know what i would have done in that situation... Did u friend told u what happened after?


Pearl said...

Hi, Judy.

I don't understand it, either, why people think we don't need each other.


Hi, Ugich.

I remember that case. No one called. How do they sleep?


Hi, Lilly.

Your daughter's a good girl. :-)


Hi, Cess.

I hope Kathryn can tell me on Monday! Otherwise, we may never know. I just hope she knows that a stranger cared what happened to her...


Kavi said...

That got me goose bumps ! Thanks for reminding that choice rests with each one of us.

That pushes me towards active from passive !

Your friend was right. You are number one !

Pearl said...

Hello, Kavi.

Very kind words. :-)


Barbara Blundell said...

Good on yu, Pearl( Associating with all these Aussies is affecting me )

Judi "Jlo" Moran said...

Dear Pearl,
Amazing, isn't it, how turning our focus to someone else and reaching out to them, can lift our own spirits.
It's a technique I've learned to practice over years of battling depression.
Even the smallest outreach can change the lens of our obsessive "zoom" on ourselves.

Judi "Jlo" Moran said...

PS: Linked to this post in my top post this morning. ;)

Patricia said...

If more people would practice basic human decency (in addition to those touted random acts of kindness) we'd all be better off.

Thanks for making the world a better place. For that poor lady -- whatever her issue, for those of us who know you personally and continually benefit from your wit and wisdom and excellent prose, and for those idiot bystanders who maybe learned some basic human decency by watching it in action.

As the kids say now-days: you da bomb!