It’s been perfect bike riding weather so I’ve been riding my bike. Today , at the intersection of a very busy street I heard someone screaming. “Help! HELP!”
Normally I wouldn’t think twice about it but I’ve been feeling pretty generous lately so why not give this woman my time?
I scouted her out. I just followed my ears to the bushes and there was a woman whose face was completely battered. A black eye, a deep cut on her forehead.
“Are you ok? What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Help me. I need help.”
“What happened? Did someone beat you up?”
“I don’t feel very good.”
“What is it? What’s going on?”
“I’m scared. I need help.”
“Do you want an ambulance? Do you need to go to the hospital?”
She paused for one second and said, “Yeah.”
“Yeah. I need an ambulance.”
“Ok….” I said. The vagueness made me a little wary. But she needed help. This lady with her beat up face and her cans of beer littered around her body. “Do I call…? Who do I call? Do you know the number?” It didn’t seem like a real 911 emergency. She was talking and breathing fine. I got out my phone and looked up “Edmonton Ambulance Number.” Google suggested 911.
“Ok. I’m going to call 911. Is that okay?” I asked.
She seemed a bit hesitant but nodded her head eventually. “Yeah.”
“911. What’s your emergency?”
“I’m with a woman that I don’t know. She’s calling for help.”
“What’s the emergency?”
“She says she doesn’t feel good.” When I said it I felt like an idiot. I looked to the woman, sipping her beer, looking back at me.”
“Is she coherent?”
“Yes. I’ve been talking to her.”
“Can you ask her what’s wrong?”
“Sure…. Can you describe how you’re feeling?” I asked the woman.
“I don’t feel very good.”
“Did she hit her head?” the 911 operator asked.
“Did you hit your head?” I asked.
She nodded, “Yes.”
“Yes.” I reply. “She hit her head. She’s kind of beat up. She’s got a black eye and… A gash on her head. Looks like it happened a while ago though.”
“Can you ask her? Help is on the way. We just want to get as much info as we can.”
“Sure. Sure… How did you get beat up? What happened to your head?”
“A guy did this to me.”
“She said a guy beat her up.”
“Recently?” the operator asked.
“A while ago.” The lady said.
“It was a while ago,” I relayed.
“Ok. But she’s conscious and seems to comprehend?”
“Stay with me.” The beat up lady said. “Can you just stay with me when the ambulance comes? I don’t want to be alone.”
I just stared at her and listened to the operator.
“Make sure she’s not eating or drinking anything.” The operator was saying at the same time.
“She’s not.” I lied, as the lady pounded back some beer.
“Ok. I’m going to stay on the line with you until the help comes.”
By now I was feeling pretty stupid. This lady was clearly not in need of an ambulance. I got duped. She pulled out a cigarette and I covered the phone with my hand when I said, “Don’t. Put that out. You better put that out.”
“I’m just going to have one before they come and take me away.”
“I wouldn’t do that.” I said.
The sirens. There they were – the fire truck and the ambulance – screeching and screaming, stopping all the traffic and barreling closer towards us.
“Put that out!” I told the woman. And then to the operator. “They’re here. The help is here.”
“Ok. Thank you for staying with us. I’ll let you deal with that now.”
The fire truck parked first and they came out to us.
“Did you call for help?”
I shrunk a few inches. “Yeah. It’s for her.”
“Stay with me. Don’t leave me.” The lady reached out to me.
“I’m sorry.” I said to the fireman. “She was screaming for help.”
A lady from the Vietnamese restaurant across the street came running . “No! No! She always does this. She scream for help every night. Every night!” She pointed at me. “You don’t’ help her. Don’t help her!”
My eyes widened in sheer terror.
“You did the right thing.” An ambulance man suggested. “You hear someone call for help, you call for help.”
“Okay.” I said backing up, my eyes welling. “Thanks.”
“You don’t know she does it but every night she yells for help. Every night the ambulance come!” The Vietnamese lady added.
I got on my bike as they loaded the poor beat up woman into the ambulance.
I felt terrible for creating such a ruckus but felt way worse for feeling so embarrassed about it all. How could I feel so stupid and then feel so much more stupid for feeling so stupid? What an intense mix of wrongful guilt and idiocy.
I cried for a while on my way to the pub. But then I had some beer and that felt great.