July 7, 2009


Posted in Uncategorized at 9:55 pm by Ian

Friday night, walking out of the dance, a man asked me for help.

He was clearly homeless. He was wearing faded chinos that ended an inch higher than fitting ones would have and a thin flannel shirt. He was clutching a backpack to his chest with one hand on the protruding neck of a guitar. His graying hair was tied back in a ponytail.

He told me that he thought he had had a seizure. I asked if I should call 911, and he said yes. I called and explained to the dispatcher. While I was talking to her, he clutched at his chest and made a pained expression. I asked if his chest hurt, and he said yes. He was shaking and he asked me if it was cold.

After I hung up, I asked him his name. He said it was “Lucky”.

The paramedics came less than a minute after I was off the phone. They immediately started tending to him and asking him what was going on, and one turned to me while checking him out.

“It’s ok,” he told me. “We pick him up all the time.”
And then: “Thank you for the call.”

I wished Lucky well and walked back to my bike. I don’t know if he had had a seizure, or if his chest hurt, or if he needed emergency medical attention. I do know that he needed a blanket, a pair of shoes, and a warm bed, and two out of three were a short phone call away, courtesy of a medical response that turns no one away.

I felt used, for myself and for the people who actually would care for him. And then I felt guilty, because who am I to begrudge a poor old man a few hours of warmth and care.


1 Comment »

  1. Ryan said,

    I feel you there. It’s often extremely difficult to separate callousness and cynicism from genuine, warranted suspicion. (That sounds terrible, I know. To be clear, I’m not commenting on you — just on the general human condition.) You have to ask yourself in these situations “Am I being played? Or am I just being overly suspicious?” And sometimes it’s simply impossible to tell.

    I think you made the right decision, and one that, sadly, many people wouldn’t.

    On an related/sad side note, this year we’ve had considerably more homeless die than last year. See http://www.independent.com/news/2009/aug/20/homeless-deaths-hit-20/.

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