Saturday, September 01, 2007

Collapses



Technically, this isn’t a pool story per se, but it’s a coming home from the pool story, so it counts. At least as far as PP is concerned and frankly that’s all that matters.

After an especially relaxing swim at the Oakland Y –own lane for a 1000 yards or so-- a definite rarity-- and then splitting the lane with the Beautiful Smiling T—more on her in another blog---PP hops, no actually she just sorta languidly slides into the overly warm Geo to make her way back up Broadway. She always pauses at the stop sign at Webster and 24th. Should she turn here and then make the turn on Broadway without the aid of the cute right hand turn arrow, or should she just mosey on up to the turn arrow and wait so she doesn’t have to think?

Today, she opts for not thinking.
Little did she know.

There they were. A Lovely Anxious Helping Woman holding her silver dashboard shield (later PP marvels at her ingenuity—what a wonderful idea to come up with in the middle of a crises—PP could never think so creatively and quickly, esp. given her usually spaced-out state, post swim) standing near the curb but still not outta traffic shading a Collapsed Chinese Man sitting on the hard hot asphalt. Damn. Wonder what happened?

Helping Woman sees the Geo approaching and steps outta the road enuf to wave her on to pass, which PP does, initially thinking she has help, but then sees the Collapsed Man sitting on the asphalt all hunkered over in his too hot black jacket and black pants and thinks to herself. That situation doesn’t look too good.

Heat exhaustion? Could that be what had led to his collapse? It was a warm day, but not as warm as it had been, but still, it was hot, particularly if you were wearing long black pants and a black jacket and black shoes and why the hell did some people wear so many clothes in the Heat? Could everyone be trying to protect themselves from the sun?

PP thinks not. It’s just elderly people. They were always cold. She got that.

So, because HW had waved her past, PP had pulled around them. But then sitting at the signal on Broadway, staring back at them in her rear view mirror,she thinks, Damn. What the hell are they doing just standing/sitting in the middle of the street on a blazing Hot first day of September at 3:30 in the afternoon in front of the Ford Dealership? (Afterwards, PP wonders why no one at the Dealership called 911, but more on that later.) So she swings a U turn and heads back to them, pulling in back of them and parking the Geo so no one will run them over, turning on her emergency flashers as a warning to other unsuspecting drivers.

Hops outta the car now, her former languidness completely dissipated. Another Good Samaritan, an Emerald Green Tank Top African America Woman was at the scene now, all business to PP. “I called 911,” she announced.
“Oh thank goodness,” PP exclaimed as she peered around the silver dashboard screen at the poor confused collapsed man, maybe 60? 70? Hell, PP can’t tell. And, yes, definitely overdressed for the day. Couldn’t they somehow get his jacket off at least?

But he doesn’t budge. Confused. Scared? In shock? He doesn’t speak nor look at any of them, but continues to sit kinda cross-legged, his head bent down, his heels propped into the asphalt. ‘It is so pity’ as one of her students from China would say.

“What happened?” PP asks Shielding Woman.
“I’m not sure. I just saw him lying here in the street so I parked my car and came over to help.” She angled the silver shield over him. “Thank God he’s sitting up now. When I got here, he was just lying here not moving at all. He didn’t look too good.”

PP thought how he still didn’t look too good as she glanced anxiously around. Should she go get someone at the car dealership to help? But then, African American Green Tank Top woman had called 911. For the second time in a week, PP wished she had a cell phone to call about Collapses on city streets. Yes, maybe it was time to join the 21st century, resister that she was.

“And his companion,” SW nods toward a slender Chinese man, elderly and gray, sitting on a bench in front of the dealership, staring anxiously over at the little group gathered around his friend. “He’s very worried. But their English isn’t so good. So, I don’t really know what happened.”
“Did you ask?” AAGTTW eyed the companion and SW dubiously.
”I did, but I don’t really think their English is good enough. I mean, they may understand English, but speaking it……” her voice trailed off as they all turned at once to the sound of the ambulance’s shrill siren.
“Wow!” PP exclaimed. “That was fast!”
The two other women nodded. “I hope they brought a translator,” SW murmured as the ambulance pulled up and out hopped two Movie Star Beauty Paramedics, the guy with muscles and tattoos, Brad Pitt watch out, the woman looking like a young butch Liz Taylor. PP thinks, Hell, maybe I better arrange a Collapse for myself on Their Shift for some much-needed resuscitation. Though then they’d probably just cart her off to Highland Hospital where there certainly were NO Movie Stars.

PP watched as they knelt down to help, immediately all business, ignoring the little group of helpers.
“Let’s see if we can get this off,” Butch Liz took charge right away, prying away his heavy hot jacket as Tattoo Brad Pitt reached into Collapsed Man’s pocket and retrieved his ID. Began asking his name. Address. Etc.

PP sighed. Thank goodness that help arrived so quickly as she got back into the Geo knowing she wasn’t needed any longer if in fact she ever was. But at least she felt like she had done something. Is this a theme lately? Seems so. And as she drove home, PP marveled at how three total strangers had come together to help another stranger in need here in Oakland, which has the reputation of a big, alienating urban war zone.

Yet, what was it about the human capacity for compassion? Strange is what it was. And here in Oakland, where you’d least expect it, it all happened so fast and naturally. Unlike SF when she had watched helplessly as all the Cell Phone business people walked around the poor homeless man, collapsed on Market Street in the middle of the afternoon rush.

Was it Oakland that had the compassion? Or just Kismet that these three women all converged together at this particular point on a Saturday afternoon? Later PP thought about how it had been all women, no men had stopped to help. Now of course, this could just be gender coincidence, but then again she had to think that women were just more helpful. They were raised this way, right? Frankly, PP hadn’t thought herself particularly compassionate, but then where the hell were the guys at the Ford Dealership? Didn’t they notice that an old Chinese Guy had collapsed in front of their dealership?

Maybe not. After all it was a Sat afternoon. Labor day. Big balloon sales. Busy busy busy selling selling selling. And this brought PP back to thinking about SF and the poor collapsed man there on Market ST. Everyone is so busy, making deals, talking a blue streak that they don’t even see the life or lack of it in their paths.

It was a sorry world sometimes.

Unless of course, you’re in downtown Oakland, on a certain Saturday afternoon, with Two other helping women, making a small hopeful difference in one poor man’s unfortunate collapse. (With a little help from the Stars, too, of course!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A gender thing?

Perhaps…it seems in my memory, that the wars of the 20th Century were all started by men…

If they had to bear their progeny, would they so carelessly disregard life?