I saw him on my way to work. I was stopped at the stop sign where Old Bardstown Road merges with Bardstown Road, right past Hikes Lane. You know where I’m talking about?
Anyhow. He was down on one knee on the sidewalk, bent over, one hand over his ear. He had a buzz haircut. I couldn’t see his face.
I was sitting in traffic, waiting, so I watched to see if he’d get back up. Instead, he swayed a little, it looked like he was rocking back and forth.
Not an old guy, at least he didn’t look old. I couldn’t really tell.
I almost drove on. I thought about it. I started to.
But I really couldn’t.
So I pulled over, out of the line of traffic, put on my flashers. Got out of the car. Walked slowly toward him.
Slowly, because you never know, he could be ~ I don’t know, he could be drunk. On drugs. Not that I haven’t been around people who were drunk or doing drugs before, but you know, he could be dangerous, right?
So I get not-too-close to him, and I call over to him, “Excuse me.”
He doesn’t look up, he just keeps sort of swaying a little bit, crouched down on one knee, holding onto his head.
“Excuse me,” a little bit louder.
And again, just a bit louder, “Hey. Are you ok??” Stepping a bit closer, but not too close.
He shakes his head then, shaking it like he’s trying to clear it. I think he says, “Yeah.” But clearly, he isn’t ok.
“You don’t look like you’re ok,” I say. “Is there someone I can call for you?”
“No.” That is firm. And he starts to stand up, but he sways, even as he’s saying, “I’m ok,” he sways and goes down again.
I start to move forward, but then I don’t, I’m already kind of close, close enough, and he’s back in his crouch, and I’m not a nurse or a doctor and I don’t know what’s wrong with him.
Yeah, he could be drunk. He looks like he’s wearing – well, blue pants like uniform pants, and a white polo shirt. Backpack on his back, but he looks too old for high school. I don’t know. College maybe? It’s a small backpack. Not a travelers bag.
I don’t know what to do. I’m standing there, and I just don’t know what to do.
Maybe I should trust him, he says he’s ok, maybe anything I do will just make it worse. What if he’s had a seizure or something? Sometimes, when people have seizures often, they really don’t want you to call an ambulance, cause they just go to the ER, where the doctors tell them that they had a seizure, and they already know that. Then the person gets a big bill, for something that they really didn’t need.
But then I don’t even know if that’s right, maybe you’re always supposed to go to the hospital for a seizure. Not that I know it was a seizure, it could be something completely different.
I feel like I’m trapped in a bad novel ~ it’s his novel, he’s the main character, I’m just the woman who appears in this scene, and whatever I do is going to be ignorant and not helpful.
If I don’t call an ambulance, he really needs one, if I do call an ambulance, he doesn’t need it and gets a big bill.
About this time, which really is only a minute, maybe two, I hear a voice behind me. A man has stopped. He’s wearing a shirt advertising some kind of Recovery facility, and for a second I have this bizarre thought that the guy on the sidewalk has escaped from the facility, and they’ve sent someone to bring him back.
But no. That’s apparently not the case.
The man in the t-shirt stays at an even safer distance away than I am. He asks me “what’s wrong with him?” and I answer, except all I can really say is, “I don’t know.” But I say that he couldn’t stand on his own when he tried to, and he ~ the rescuer guy ~ says, “I’m calling an ambulance.”
I’m relieved, and tell him yes, I think we need to.
But while he’s on the phone with 911, the guy on the sidewalk makes it to his feet. He can barely stand, he kind of reminds me of Bambi, in the movie, when the little deer gets to his feet for the first time.
The guy starts walking away, and the man who’s talking to 911 says into the phone, “No, never mind, no, he’s walking away. Yes, he was on the ground, but he’s walking away now.”
He is, in his blue pants with the backpack on his back, he’s picking up speed as he goes, still a little unsteady. We watch him go for a minute.
Then I shrug, jump back in my car, turn off the flashers, and make my way back into the flow of traffic. I have places to go, people to see.
Such a brief, random connection. I wonder what he really needed. Did we make things worse in some way ~ would it have been better if we’d left him alone? Did he need more than he got?
I can make up a bunch of different endings for his story, probably none of them close to the truth. I wonder about him, and I’ll never know. But I can still see him, heading down the sidewalk, off to whatever happens next.
I admit it. Not that I was bragging ~ I wasn’t really bragging. But a few times lately, I may have mentioned the fact that I haven’t gotten a speeding ticket since 1978 or ’79. Just mentioned it because, lately, a couple of people have acted like they thought I drive fast.
Anyhow, I guess that was a mistake, mentioning it. Because ~
Wednesday morning, I’m driving up I-65, on my way to work. Listening to John Mellencamp on my CD player, just cruising along, enjoying life in the fast lane.
So when I see the flashing lights behind me, hear the quick blast of the siren, I think, “Oh ~ I better get out of the way.” And I start to change lanes. Only ~
~ He starts to change lanes right behind me. And I think ~
“Oh, shit,” and he kind of gestures to me, and I pull over , with him right behind me, and I stop the car.
Now, I gotta tell you, when I get stopped by the police ~ and it doesn’t happen very often ~ but when I do, I am immediately convinced that they’re going to find out there’s a bench warrant on me, one that I didn’t know anything about, and they’re going to arrest me on the spot.
Take me to jail.
Strip search me.
So I’m terrified.
Sitting there with my hands on the steering wheel, keeping them in clear sight so he knows I’m not going for a gun or anything, right? Terrified.
And he walks up to the car.
Making sure he can still see my hands, I reach down and hit the button to roll the window down. He leans down, towards me a little.
“I clocked you doing seventy-four,” he says. Grim. “The speed limit here’s fifty-five.”
My heart is racing.
“Now up the road aways,” he says, “the speed limit’s sixty-five. If you’d of been up there, you’dda been fine. But it’s fifty-five here. AND ~”
He looks down into the car ~ “AND ~ you’re not wearing your seat belt!”
I glance down, omigod, he’s right, I’m not, I always, always wear my seat belt ~~ and I realize ~ omg ~ and I blurt out ~
“I was ~ I took it off when I stopped!”
“Why’d you do that?” he snaps back.
“I don’t know!” I say, helpless to explain, horrified at myself.
“I’ll buy that,” he says, with a nod. “Give me your driver’s license.”
Shaking, but still being careful that he can see my hands ~ no gun here, Sir ~ I hand him my license. And wait ~
~ certain that my arrest for something I didn’t actually do is just moments away.
At last, I see him in my sideview mirror. Walking back towards me, a piece of paper wrapped around my license in his hand.
“A ticket!” I think. “Just a speeding ticket! Okay… I can handle that.”
At my side again, he says, “I’m gonna give you a choice.”
A choice? I think. Omigod, it’s a test. Ok. I can do this.
“A choice,” he says. “Which would you rather have? A speeding ticket for $150, and lose four points off your license, and have to go to traffic school? Or a $25 ticket for not wearing your seat belt.” Quickly, he adds, “I know ~ you were wearing your seat belt. But you’re not now.”
I’m in a panic. It’s a trick, right? If I say the seatbelt, then I’m guilty of trying to get him to do something wrong, right?
So, shaking, I say, “Well, I deserve the speeding ticket…”
And he interrupts. Shaking his head, he says, “I’m trying to give you a break here…”
and I get it!
“THE SEATBELT!” I say, triumphantly. “The $25 ticket for the seatbelt!” And real quick, I add, “Sir.”
He hands it over ~
and I go on my way rejoicing.
Bought a lottery ticket.
Promised myself I’d slow it down ~ no more than 10 miles an hour over the limit. For sure.
AND ~ I won’t be talking about how long it’s been since I got a speeding ticket any more. Never again.