Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Things I Learned Today

@dv@ir takes a good 2 or 3 minutes to really work, which is a long time if you can't breathe.

I was walking the dog this morning a little late but earlier than I have in a couple of weeks. On our normal route I saw a dog to avoid and crossed the street but kept looking in that direction because of a really odd noise. It turned out to be a young woman gasping for air. She was propping herself on a car to dig through her purse right in front of the old guy who walks the avoided dog. He stopped and was looking at her but not speaking. I stopped on the other side of the street to look at her. We were the only people on the block.

I have trouble with the fact that I have trouble helping people in a public situation like that. I feel guilty, or stupid, or something. It's a combination of my natural reluctance to speak to new people or enter new situations and the lessons my mother taught me. She never walked down the street to see where the fire engines ended up, she never stopped on the sidewalk to see what the commotion was, she told me to stay out of the way so the people in charge could do their work. So I do. However, I have taken it so much to heart that I do it even when no one is necessarily in charge, which is odd because if anyone has a degree in overhelping it's my mom. She's a Pisces, she can hold both of those truths to be self-evident. I'm a Capricorn, I can't. Both of my parents are actually really good in a crisis. They can do truly convincing renditions of "No, it's not serious at all, we just want someone to take a look at the way that foot's hanging off your ankle to make sure it heals well." and "Nothing to worry about, the arterial spray there, it's not a big deal, we're taking care of it." while dialing 911 and putting direct pressure on your neck. Thankfully I've learned that lesson pretty well, too. If I chop off my own thumb I'll be freaking out but if you chop off yours you definitely want me in your know, if you can get me to stop and help.

This noise the woman was making was ghastly. It makes my lungs contract just to think about it. At first I thought she was crying, and she was, but then I realized that the inhale was just broken.

Anyway, the old guy wasn't helping so I went over. I thought maybe the girl would like me to find her inhaler in her purse. I mean, no you should never let anyone look in your purse if you don't know them...except if it can save your life. She was digging with one hand and had her phone to her ear with the other so she might also want me to call someone. I couldn't formulate specific questions, though, it being before 8am so I just asked if I could help. She didn't respond. Who can blame her? The last minute before you pass out is hardly the time to engage in a pick up game of charades.

As a result I was just standing there in the bike lane watching her root in her bag and gasp like a fish. I felt like a supreme idiot but I couldn't leave. Seeing someone in trouble and walking by is one sort of bad but stopping to gawk/"help" and just walking away before they're OK is a level of bad I'd prefer not to get to. Again, it's a fine line, I am highly attuned to the "nobody wants you to stand around gawking at them while they look like this" vibe. I kept trying to look around and be casual but come on, you're the only person standing next to a woman who won't look you in the eye and is doing the death scene from A Fish Called Wanda, there is no casual.

She found the inhaler and she took a hit.

We waited.

I finally realized that she wasn't trying to call someone she was actually on the phone already.

Her breath was coming a little easier but not much. There was no way she was going to be able to speak for a while.

I asked if she wanted me to talk to whoever was on the phone.

She perked up and handed me her slick little sidekick.

"Hi, she was able to find her inhaler and use it. Her breath seems to be coming a little easier. Is there anything else I should do?" Note the complete lack of niceties, Emily Post wants to be me.*

"She has asthma." No shit, sir, really? "Where are you?"

"We're on the corner of [street] and [avenue]."

"That in Brooklyn?"

"Yes sir, we're in Brooklyn."

"Oh, well I'm all the way in Texas, I don't know, you know. I don't know why she get so upset. We just talking and she get herself all upset. I don't know why she do that, she know she got asthma."

It's at this point that my personality split. In reality I'm just someone who happened across your daughter/niece/granddaughter and wants to help so it's none of my business. In my brain, though, I can replay that conversation you're talking about and it makes me want to fly to Texas and kneecap you. You know she has asthma and yet, undoubtedly, you were having an upsetting conversation and you just kept nudging her and telling her to calm down and not get hysterical and blaming her for her feelings as only a parent-figure can properly do. Why did you not just shut the fuck up already, she's all by herself on the street and she needs some space to fucking recover!

"Well, she seems to be doing some better now." She was, a lot better, but this was at least 2 minutes and probably more from inhaler use. "I'm going to give the phone back to her but I don't know if she's going to be able to speak yet." And I hope she hangs up on you.

"Thank you."

"No problem." I handed the phone back. "Do you want me to go?" She made some sort of gesture that could probably have been interpreted a number of ways but I went on my ineffectual way without clarifying.

I hope I never get asthma, those inhalers take way too long to work.

*Has anyone invented an emoticon for sarcasm yet? I need that.


  1. Anonymous11:41 PM

    he "canonical" emoticon for biting sarcasm is:


    Canonical Smiley List

  2. I don't really have a problem with being the person in charge, even though I'm usually of the "stay out of the way" set. I've been the first person on accident scenes (two of them, to be specific, and, at one of them, someone died), and I can do what has to be done, but I'm not going to chase fire trucks or gawk when there's clearly someone there who can do a better job at what has to be done than I can.

    I'm glad you stopped. I bet she is, too...

  3. Man, that sounds terrifying. "The last minute before you pass out is hardly the time to engage in a pick up game of charades." Tee hee, so true.