Monday, April 20, 2009

A Crazy Crazy Day

This morning I was waiting for a co-worker to pick me up at the metro so that we could carpool to an all-staff meeting that we had. It was pouring rain, and so I was waiting with a couple of other people under the area around the exit that was covered by the building above. Among the people waiting there was an elderly gentleman who appeared to be an immigrant.

All of a sudden this elderly fellow dashed past me, towards a cab that was driving by, to try and flag it down. Only instead he ran straight into a garbage can, fell back, and hit his head on the sidewalk. It looked like he blacked out for a brief moment. He tried to sit up, made it only part way, and then fell back again. He was laying on the ground. I stepped over and helped the man to his feet and over to a set of stairs that were nearby so that he could sit down. His pupils were swollen and he seemed completely out of it. I told him I was going to call 911.

He said, in a quiet, broken English, "No. I just need a minute. I'm going to the hospital anyway." And then he lifted up his shirt to reveal a gigantic gauze bandaged to his stomach. It almost looked like he had a feeding tube underneath the gauze, though I couldn't tell, and the bandage stretched almost the entire way across his skinny body. "I have an appointment," he said.

"Where is your appointment?" I asked. "I think you need medical attention right away."
"Arlington Hospital."
"Is there someone I can call?"
"Can you please get me a cab? I need to go to my appointment."
"I'll try to get you a cab. Wait here."

I ran out in the pouring rain to try to flag down a cab. There aren't a ton that pass by the metro stop we were at, but after a couple minutes in the downpour I was able to flag down a Redtop. "There's a man here who needs to go to Arlington hospital. He's right around the corner."
"No," said the cabbie. "I'm only taking people into the city." And he drove away (splashing me in the process. Not that that mattered, I wasn't getting any wetter.).

I ran back to the man to make sure he was doing ok. He wasn't. He had vomited a little and was now rinsing his mouth out with a bottle of water he had. "Is there anyone else I can call? You don't want me to get an ambulance? 911?"

"No 911," he said. I surmised that he either probably wasn't a legal resident or didn't have insurance to cover an ambulance ride. Both were issues I see regularly in my work, so I wanted to respect his decision. "Can you call my wife?"
"Yes. What is the number?"
He gave me a number but stopped after 8 digits. It was like that scene from The Injury episode of The Office when Dwight starts talking and then just stops mid sentence. I eventually coaxed two more digits out of him, but no one answered on the other end and I don't know if the number was right.

"I'll try for another cab," I said.
As I was standing in the rain to hail another taxi my co-worker pulled up. I explained the situation and she tried to help me flag down a cab. Eventually we got another cab - this time it was Crown Cab Co. - and the driver told us the same thing. He wasn't going to take someone further out into Arlington. My co-worker figured it was probably because with the rain they were making a mint off of taking people into the city and picking up short fares downtown. I figured she was right. She ran off the check on the guy, who apparently had vomited some more. After that she went and found a number for Red Top's dispatch, so we could order a cab. Before she did all this she offered me her umbrella. I told her to keep it, since I wasn't going to get any wetter than I already was.

I stayed out in the rain, trying to hail more cabs. Eventually another Red Top pulled up and the driver didn't even bother telling me no. As soon as he heard "Arlington Hospital" he rolled up the window and sped away. My co-worker found the number and brought it over for me. I called the dispatch. I was on hold for 5 minutes, during which time another cab - Yellow Top - was flagged down and refused the fair. Finally dispatch picked up. It was no easy task to convince them to send a cab for a guy who needed to go to the hospital, especially when I couldn't even give them his name. As I was in the middle of this frantic call, talking to dispatch, another passerby asked me if I could call a cab for her too. I pretty much yelled at her and she left in a huff. I'm sure she's telling people about the rude guy who wouldn't even ask for two cabs. Eventually I convinced the dispatch to send a cab, but told me it would be 20 minutes. I said to send it, and went back to the guy.

He seemed to be doing a bit better, though he still wasn't ready to stand up. My co-worker helped me flag down another cab - Red Top again - and we explained that dispatch was supposed to be sending someone, so couldn't he just pick him up instead. "No way," he said. "It's not my call." And again he drove off.

We were already 30 minutes late for our meeting, and nothing we were doing seemed to have any positive effect. I felt really bad for my co-worker, who kind of got sucked into this whole mess (and she was a great support with it), but I didn't want to leave the guy. Finally something good happened - a metro employee came up for a break. I was able to grab his attention and explain the situation - that I saw him fall, the concussion, that he was already going to the hospital, that I hadn't been able to get a cab, but there should be one in 5 minutes and he needed to get in it, etc.

The metro employee was awesome. He agreed to help the guy, went right over and started talking to him, to see what he could do, how he could help him, everything. At that point it was clear the elderly fellow was in good hands, and we were finally able to take off. I felt a little bad not seeing him into a cab, but I feel pretty confident he was taken care of.

On the way to the meeting my co-worker and I talked about whether we should have just given him a ride. I didn't feel I could volunteer her car, and she was apprehensive because the hospital wasn't on the way at all, she really didn't have much room, and the vomiting thing was an obvious detractor. We both felt bad we didn't just take him there, and looking back, we kind of wished we would have.

Still... we did what we could. It was hard to know what to do in that situation. I spent the rest of the day soaking wet, wishing things had gone better, and still in disbelief that 5 separate cabs turned him down.
Then we had an all-staff meeting where we talked about all sorts of ways to make our offices more efficient and better for clients and what not. After which, we got to go bowling! A nice end to a long meeting. I bowled a 112 and a 122. Not my best games. I have 5 strikes in each game, but also managed a 0 in frame in the first game, and a bunch of 4's in both. Very inconsistent. But it was fun.
And while I was on a break at the meeting I was able to use a different co-worker's iPhone to check the results on the Minnesota Bar exam, which were posted this morning. I passed! That makes me undefeated in bar examinations. And I think I'll go out on top, and announce my retirement from taking these tests. Of course it seems that these days everyone comes out of retirement at least once... hopefully I won't have to!

And a big yellow taxi took away my old man


Eric Michael Peterson said...

Intense day. And congrats on the Bar.

Quinn said...

Congratulations on passing the bar. Fantastic.

I also think you did the right thing with that man and it's commendable you stuck with it. Good to hear such stories.

Andrew said...

Congrats on passing the bar!

What a crazy day! It's unbelievable that 5 cabs refused to take someone to the hospital!

Is calling an ambulance a problem for illegal immigrants? I've never ridden in an ambulance, but do the medics really ask for ID?

Matthew B. Novak said...

In Northern VA you can't be too careful with immigrants... the biggest issue wouldn't have been the ambulence checking the ID, it would have been calling 911 and having the police show up too.

Gina said...


Thinking Fool said...

Congrats on the BAR!!!! That's wonderful! Even more wonderful is what you did for the old man. Bravo.

Ben said...

Congratulations, sir! Now you are Esquire in two separate states.

But, more to the point, helping that guy was a Christ-like, compassionate thing to do. "Well done, good and faithful servant."

superscalifragilisticexpealidocious said...

Maybe I'll be a cab-driver
so that when people are asking for a ride to the hospital, I can be the good one and drive them there! sheesh that is just ridiculous!

Congrats though :]