Friday, 16 April 2010

Rattle Bing Bang

I tried something new today. I called 911. The story follows:

Madeleine, a good friend of mine, called me up today, wanting to know if I was game to take a spin on our bicycles. "Sure," I said, "It's gorgeous outside."

"I know," Madeleine replied, "My husband wants me to take a nap, but I want to go for a bike ride."

"Huh?" I said.

"I'll meet you in 15 minutes," said Maddie.

"Ok," said I.

After fighting with the combination lock on the shed wherein our bikes are stored and deciding to use the bike that did not have a tire so flat I could squeeze it with two fingers, I threw on my runners. "When do you need to be back by?" I asked Madeleine.

"Let's go for an hour," she said.

"Do you have a watch or something to keep track of the time with?" I asked.

"No," she said.

"Then I'll grab my cell," I said, running up the stairs to grab my phone, and tracking mud on the carpet all the way there. Oh yeah - forgot that the last place I wore these shoes was the cousins' farm...

And so began our trek through the wild woods of Calgary. Everything started out fine. We chatted about nothing terribly important in the way that is so crucial for proper female bonding. I let Madeleine lead the way through the winding bike paths because my sense of direction and navigation is zip.

Eventually we came to a sign that said something along the lines of "Steep Hill: Cyclists Dismount" Not wishing to tempt fate or be those goofy people everyone laughs so hard at for ignoring signs and then getting seriously maimed for it, we obediently swung off our bikes and proceeded to walk them down the hill. A/N: Pay attention to this next part - it's foreshadowing.

"Boy," said Madeleine, "It's a good thing we're walking down this part. Had we tried to ride down here, I would have shot off the end of this cliff."

"Hmm," I said. "That would be exciting, with all the sharp rocks and trees at the bottom."

So we carried on our way. Eventually Madeleine said we should turn around (she was yawning at this point and ready for her nap), so turn around we did. Because there was only one path, I didn't fear getting lost and so took the lead for a while. But then I realized that Madeleine was not riding behind me.

I stopped and looked back. Madeleine was picking something off the ground. "Something broke off my bike," she said. It was a piece of plastic that had been connected to the spokes of her front wheel.

"I think it's probably just something you can attach reflectors to, if you want," I said.

"No, it has to do with the brakes," she said. "See, the front tire brake is locked on now."

Completely confused and not quite convinced this is possible, we spent some time attempting to analyze and fix the situation. Eventually Madeleine realized that the front tire had been twisted around a full 360 as she was trying to figure out what the plastic was. She twisted the wheel back. The brake worked again.

So off we went. Then her chain fell off. We fixed that (ok, Madeleine fixed it. I didn't want to get my hands unnecessarily dirty) and resumed our trip. Doubtlessly, the most strenuous part of the ride was when we were pushing our bikes back up the steep hill with the cliff face. But we managed, without incident, and eventually found ourselves back at Madeleine's house. A/N: Ok, so I lied. That foreshadowing thing was a red herring.

I mused to myself that we probably were out for a fair bit longer than she had wanted, because we only looked at my cell phone clock twice and then been waylaid by falling parts. Oh, well. Madeleine gave me very clear instructions on how to get home from her place and we parted ways, both having enjoyed ourselves, the weather, and the conversation. And I set off for home, riding along the sidewalk, feeling the wind whip across my shoulders, thinking "Wow, it's a lot windier traveling this direction and without any trees."

SMACK. I looked up just in time to see a car with a demolished rear end be sent careening into oncoming traffic. Incredibly, no one coming the other way hit the car. A few people stopped. Quickly surveying the damage, I saw that most of the damage was to that car's rear end. The front wasn't damaged. The car that hit it was still on the correct side of the road, and though it had some front end damage, healthy-looking people were getting out the front seats, leading me to believe that nobody was hurt. I debated riding by, not knowing how long the police would take to get there and knowing that there were already plenty of witnesses who had surely seen the crash and not just heard it.

But then there was a man on a crutch that walked over to the car that had been hit. He looked in the driver's window, and because the wind was whipping in my direction, I heard him say "Someone call 911." Suddenly feeling very guilty for contemplating riding by, I sped up and joined him at the car. I saw the girl in the driver's seat had handed the man with the crutch something that I assumed to be a cell phone, but it hadn't looked like he had dialed anything. I ditched the bike and peered in over the man's shoulder as he was talking to her. Her face was quite bloody and she was crying quietly, but the windshield was intact, though blood was splattered elsewhere. The person in the passenger seat looked fine, if a little stunned. At this point another man came up. I asked if anyone had phoned 911 already. No, but we need to, was the reply, so I dug out my phone and dialed, trying desperately to remember what road this was.

It didn't even ring once - just a half a ring - before the other end of the line clicked to life. "Whoa," I thought, "They've got this line covered very well."

"Emergency line," came a tinny female voice, "All of our operators are busy with other calls. Please stay on the line and your call will be -"

About now a real person picked up. "Mumble mumble," he said.

"Uh," I replied, "There's been a car collision."

I don't recall the order of the questions he asked me, but after I finally sorted out with the men on scene just what road this was (they didn't seem to be sure, either) he said that EMS was on the way. I think they were dispatched before they fully knew where they were headed. He then took my name and number and proceeded to rattle off in a bored voice a list of instructions, of which I made out "turn on the hazard lights". So one of the men turned on the hazard lights in the smashed up car and another trotted across the road to turn on the hazards of the other car. It gave me a strange sense to have grown men obeying me, even if the directions came from a higher authority and I was just the mouthpiece.

And then the 911 operator told me to call back if anything worse seemed to develop.

Meanwhile, quite the crowd had gathered. Luckily, the second man who had arrived on scene seemed to be a medic of some kind, so he knew not to move anyone and happened to have a lot of gauze in his car to help with the blood. They kept the girl talking about her classes at university until all the emergency vehicles arrived.

A fire truck blocked off the lane and set up traffic cones while the paramedics came to deal with the people. Apparently one of the men in the other car was rather shell-shocked, but luckily it doesn't seem that anyone was too seriously hurt, though they took the one girl into the ambulance. I don't know if they took her to the hospital, though.

I chatted with a few of the people who had stopped while looking at the looong line of backed up traffic. Apparently the girls had been stopped to turn left, when the other car came up from behind and just smacked them. I don't know if the girls were in the wrong lane, or if the other people just weren't paying attention, or both or what. The police asked that everyone who saw the accident to stay to write a statement, but since I hadn't actually seen it, I figured my role was done. Saying goodbye to the men who had stopped to help, I carried on and got home no problem.

But I'm taking this as a lesson. See, earlier today, one of my lecturers, right near the end of class, asked us to wait a moment and sat down. I assumed she was trying to think of the answer to a question that had just been asked. Then she apologized, and I thought she was trying to not cry because our class had been kind of unenthusiastic. But then someone asked her if she was ok, and she managed to say something about "health problem". Then I felt really bad because I had been a little angry with her for how she graded my midterm, and I suddenly realized that it didn't really matter. I can't be dour because of it.

The student asked if she needed us to go get help. No, just a moment, and let's see if she gets better. She managed to dismiss the class (great way to end a term). I hung back with some of the other students to make sure she was ok. Offered her water, food... eventually she smiled and said she was feeling better, thank you for understanding, but I was a little shaken. Judging by her posture, it was probably a fairly serious "health problem".

Anyway, I was kind of kicking myself for not being quick to make sure she was ok when I saw something wasn't quite right. And then I almost rode right by the collision. This is not good. I am a psychology student. I know about the bystander effect and the diffusion of responsibility. And I definitely know the example Jesus set - plus the examples of the people who jumped to help before I did. Yet I can think of a bunch of other examples where I have seen a need but did not bother to fill it. This is not the way I am supposed to live life, and I have been convicted of that today.

Here's to doing better in the future.

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer


This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.


Bri said...

Awwe really =( That's quite a day

art said...

Sounds like you had an educational day. I am glad that you were the one who called for help. I like your end quote. I guess nobody is perfect.