|It was another hot day in the East Bay area of San Francisco, California. This at least felt more like summers that I am used to.
Well, one never quite gets "used to it" but at least it's more consistent.
Today brought its own sense of adventure. Just when I was having my usual Hohum- I'm-waiting-for-the-bus episode, this guy comes along, and he's waiting for it too. Of course, this bus is VERY late. I was okay though. I wasn't in a big hurry, but could think of better things to do than sit around in the heat staring at nothing. We chatted a tiny bit--just the usual type of thing about nothing in particular and we joined in our gripe about the heat and late buses. Misery loves company.
Finally, the bus arrived. We stepped toward the curb, the doors opened. I almost boarded, but hesitated when I noticed a man leaning near the front of the bus. I was unsure what he was going to do next. Was he getting off the bus or just hanging around near the front doors?
He took a few steps, but in a very exaggerated way as if he might fall down at any moment. There was an unfocused look on his face, plus he had strings of snot hanging from his nose, which swung to and fro. Occasionally, it fell off and onto the floor.
He lurched forward, almost fell behind the bus driver's seat, and then his body swung the other way once more. He found his way to the door where another string of snot danced and fell. When he took one more step forward, I backed away, trying not to gag. Either the guy was really drunk or very sick. I wasn't sure which.
Stepping off of the bus, he staggered forward and with his hands outstretched, he kind of flew in a twisted Superman style way toward the pavement.
The other guy with me, said, "Whoa!" and almost blocked his fall, but I think he was grossed out as much as I was.
The man's head landed on the grass, his body turned sideways on the sidewalk.
"Is he okay?" the bus driver said.
Was he serious? The man had just fallen and had all the signs that he wasn't well. "No. He's not at all okay. You better call the police," I said.
"Maybe the heat got to him. I'll call dispatch to see what I should do." A few seconds later he said, "I can't get through for some reason."
"Oh great. Can you call the police? This guy needs help. We can't just leave him here like this. You're not going to leave, are you?"
"No. I can't leave. I can't call the police. Can you?"
I wondered why he couldn't call the police or do something, but this wasn't time to squabble over that. "Okay, I will." I dialed 911, told them to send an ambulance ASAP, gave them the location, a description of the guy, and told them what happened.
Of course, they asked the usual questions.
"Did he hit his head?"
"I'm not sure. He might have."
"Is he bleeding?"
"Yes, I think he might be bleeding out his mouth. I'm looking at him now. He's out."
"Is he breathing?"
"Yes, I think so. He has good color in his face."
"Keep watching him and tell me if anything changes."
"Okay, it looks like he just came to and he's mumbling."
"Is he stable?"
"No. I don't think he should move at all."
"How old is he? What does he look like?"
"I'm guessing he might be somewhere between 50 and 70 years old. I could be wrong though. He has brown hair... " About that time some guy pulled over asking if we needed help. "I'm talking to 911 right now," I yelled back. I returned to the phone call. "Sorry about that. A motorist stopped to ask if we needed assitance."
"Ma'am. I need you to answer some more questions. What was he doing before he got off the bus? Does he have a history of any illnesses?"
"I don't know. We aren't related. I don't know anything about him."
Meanwhile, this guy passed out and then came to and we thought he might get back up, but encouraged him not to move.
It took a short while, but a motorcycle cop showed up, followed by an ambulance. We told them what happened and then let the paramedics do their stuff. By this time, I really didn't feel like going anywhere else after this was over. For one thing, what I saw happen was making me sick.
The bus driver told us we could come back inside and wait in the air conditioned bus.
Good idea. At least it would be cooler. We boarded the bus. I looked around from one end of the bus to the other for anything shiny or wet. I started to take a seat, and then stood back up again. I pulled my bags close to me. "I wonder where he was in here?" I spied some chunky stuff on the floor near the back wall. "Okay, I know one thing I am not sitting back there. I'm not sure where it's safe to sit."
"Neither am I, " the other guy said.
We finally caved in and found some seats as close to the front as possible, which might have even been more contaminated than anywhere else.
After the ambulance came and administered to the man, the other guy and I went back outside, and walked away from the group. "I wonder what was wrong with him," I said.
"I thought I smelled liquor on his breath."
"You did? You sure? I didn't, then again I was staying far from him. I heard him say he had a heart problem. He seemed awfully sick."
"Too much liquor can make you sick like that too."
"True." I looked again at the guy on the ground. If he was ill, then he couldn't help it, but if he was drunk then he really had delayed my trip and that part irked me a little. Okay, I have to tell you something. When I get in a stressful situation, my sense of humor kicks in. I call it my coping mechanism.
"I feel sorry for that bus driver," the stranger said.
"Did you see how he almost landed in his lap?"
"Yes. The poor guy was trapped behind the wheel and couldn't escape," I said. "I saw how you tried to block his fall." I turned to him and smiled. "You're his hero, you know." Okay, what did it hurt if I lied a little. At least he knelt by him and reassured the guy, while I stood by doing nothing that special.
"No. I'm not. I was afraid he was going to grab on to me with all that stuff on him." He held his hands straight out like Frankenstein and jiggled them toward me.
We laughed like a couple of school kids. He would have to gesture like that. It's all I needed. "Ooh yeah. I know what you mean." I wiped my brow. "I"m just glad that we didn't have to give him mouth to mouth." I chortled.
"Can you imagine that, with all the mess on his face?"
I wondered why he was grinning? I looked at the ill guy again, and noticed congealed blood, spit, and snot. The gag reflex was still strong. My eyes scanned our surroundings and stopped. I nodded toward the bushes. "See that bag over there? I'd have to grab it and put it over his head first..."
"And then get another one for mine. I mean, this is an emergency. We couldn't just let him die... could we?"
"No. We couldn't."
"Right. It would haunt us for the rest of our days. I do know CPR, but seriously, if things got that bad it calls for desperate measures. It means I'd have to rip off a piece of clothing and wipe him down first. Do you think it would hurt if I squirted some of that hand disinfectant all over his face? What if it killed him?"
He burst out laughing.
"To be honest with you, I really wouldn't take off my top. I"d use my socks instead. Do you think that would work?"
He started making little sounds in his throat. His grin lines were showing and seemed permenantly etched into his face.
"On second thought, maybe I'd let you handle it. Do you know mouth to mouth?"
"In that case, I'd take off my shorts," he said.
"Oh god!" I tried to wipe that visual out of my mind, even though it made me laugh. "Jeez. Listen to us. This guy could be dying and we're laughing at his expense. We ought to be ashamed, but honestly I'm not."
"It's okay. We're not hurting anyone," he said.
The cops questioned us and said we were free to leave if we wanted to, but we had to wait for a ride to the next bus stop. And then wait some more once we got there, and that bus was late too. I was so glad to be home and just flop into a chair and have something nice and wet and cold to sip on.
*This is part of "Invalid Entry"