I hop in my car at the end of a long work week. It's Friday! Time to enjoy a relaxing weekend. But first some errands, just like I do everyday. Stop and get gas, pick up some potting soil and a new planter for an office plant that needs more space, think about picking up something for dinner before deciding to cook something when I get home.
I'm driving down Woodward, just like I do everyday, enjoying some music, happy to feel a cool breeze coming through my windows, when I see something I don't see everyday.
There was a woman on the corner of Woodward and Glendale. She was slumped over in a wheelchair, her right hand grazing the pavement. Her hair fell forward in her face, her feel slack on the sidewalk. She was wearing black knit shorts, worn down flip flops (or should I say a worn down flip flop - one had come off her foot), and a black and white plaid shirt that was almost completely open. The way she was positioned in the chair and the way she was slumped over, it was hard to tell if she were male or female.
The driver in front of me blew his horn in an attempt to rouse her. She didn't move. At that moment, the light changed and it was time to move on. Just like drivers do everyday. I had to pull forward and drive through the parking lot of the gas station across the street in order to circle back into the parking lot she was in front of and call the police.
As I was on the phone with a dispatcher, a woman walked by the woman in the chair. She tapped her on the shoulder, and for the first time since I'd seen her, the woman in the chair moved. It was a slight nod of her head, just enough for the passerby to assume she was okay. She kept on walking. The dispatcher told me an ambulance and a squad car was on the way - someone had called a couple of minutes earlier. I hung up the phone, turned off the car, and got out.
"Ma'am? Are you okay?" I asked walking toward her. She barely moved. I noticed an old bandage about six inches long taped on her leg. It looked like hadn't been changed in several days.
"Ma'am? Are you okay?" I got a bit closer. By now, I could see that she hadn't had a bath in at least a day or two. The bare foot was ashy and dirty, almost black on the bottom. She looked up slightly and murmured something, but I couldn't hear what. She looked old and neglected. Her teeth were ragged, her lips dry and a little chapped. She barely opened her eyes.
I started to go a little closer, but I was afraid to touch her. I didn't know what was wrong with her. Was she having a seizure? Hypoglycemic? High? Combative? I didn't know what to do.
Fortunately by this time, the ambulance was pulling up. At the same time, a man was approaching the corner. He was shaking his head.
"She does this everyday," he said, as the EMT was walking up to the woman in the wheelchair. Almost simultaneously, the EMT spoke to the woman.
"Jane (not her real name)? Have you been drinking again?"
"I had to put her out of the gas station," the man standing next to me said. "She comes over to the gas station and hangs out with the other drunks. We have to throw her out everyday."
The second EMT asked the two of us some questions about her. How long had she been there on the corner? Just a few minutes. The two men she'd been drinking with wheeled her across the street and left her on the corner before they took off. How much had she had to drink? The men had thrown away and empty fifth of vodka before wheeling her away from the gas station. How long had it been since a call went in to 911? When I talked to the dispatcher, it was 6:44. The dispatcher told me she'd received a call about the woman at 6:38.
"I don't know why she's in that chair," the man next to me said. "She can walk, you know. She lives right across the street.'
By now, the woman was sitting up a little straighter in her chair, though she was still slumped over. The first EMT buttoned up her shirt as he asked her what she wanted.
"I just want to go home," she said. Her words slurred. The EMT stepped back, flinching from the smell of alcohol on her breath. The second EMT began unloading a gurney from the back of the ambulance. At about this point, a squad car arrived.
"Jane? Are you okay?" The police officers knew her by name, too.
"It's the usual," said the first EMT. "She's had a lot to drink today."
The man next to me worked at the gas station across the street. He said this happens everyday. Jane comes to the station to panhandle and drink. She has too much and gets kicked out, passes out, or both. The police and an ambulance show up, get her some treatment, then take her home.
"It happens everyday," the man from the gas station said. Shaking his head, he walked away. I asked the EMT if he needed anything else from me. When he said no, I began to walk to my car. I looked back, and I saw them preparing to put her on the gurney. The cops and the EMTs talked to her and each other, handling her with care, trying to joke with her and each other.
I got in my car and headed down Woodward towards home. Just like I do everyday.
More later, but I can't help but wonder if she's okay. And I hope that the same thing that happens to her everday doesn't happen to her tomorrow. If you know anyone who has a drinking problem, please get in touch with Alcoholics Anonymous
, your doctor, or trusted adviser for assistance on how to help that person; and Al-Anon
to get help for yourself on how to cope with a loved one's addiction. Keep your eyes open as you go about your day-to-day affairs, and don't be afraid to provide any assistance if you see someone in trouble or something that isn't right - even if that assistance is simply calling 911. For every person who stopped, there were at least ten who kept on going as though nothing was wrong. Everyday will just keep happening the same as it does unless we try to do just one thing a little different.
Labels: Alcoholism, cynicism, Indifference, life, Responsibility, volunteering