No Pit, All Pendulum


As I think I mentioned, it was really nice to do that segment for ProTV because I’ve been writing about my life for a long time but that was the first chance for all of you to see my life here in Romania. But the camera is not always rolling and what happened last night was not filmed.

At around 10:45 last night I was walking with two friends on a downtown street here in Unicorn City. We were chatting and discussing ordinary things, leading our ordinary lives. We were on our way to a club to meet up with more friends and do the ordinary, normal things people do in clubs. The weather was clear but cold, as is normal for a December night, and absolutely everything was completely unremarkable in every way.

And then, in an instant, I felt the breeze of the pendulum as it swung past us, and everything changed. A young woman who was walking in front of us stumbled and fell, her head viciously striking the lip of a concrete planter (a large pot that holds flowers) and she collapsed onto the ground. When we turned her over, she was bleeding profusely from two very deep head wounds and she was completely unresponsive. She wasn’t just stunned, or lethargic, or slow to recover – she was completely unconscious.

One second we were a group of friends chatting and feeling warm after having a few beers and the next moment a switch was thrown and everything changed. The mild euphoria disappeared and that old, long forgotten mantle of cold and objective professionalism clicked into place. One of my friends called for an ambulance and another got some tissues from a nearby taxi driver to try and staunch the blood. I checked that she was breathing okay and then laid her out in a more comfortable position. I went through her pockets to find her identification so we could call her by her name in an effort to try to get her to return to consciousness.

A few people stopped, attracted to the spectacle, and some made a few stupid remarks. One very nice young woman did more than just stare and stayed with us and helped until the ambulance arrived. Alas, I never got her name and so if she ever reads this, thank you.

As is normal for these situations, a sense of time dilation kicked in, where it seems like minutes take hours. Some people want to stare and gawk and find the whole situation some kind of bizarre form of entertainment. I actually saw one guy in a car stop just to stare and watch. Other people panic and become nervous and hyperactive and talk incessantly. I don’t know if you need experience in these kinds of things or if it is just about internal character but some people become calm, focused and vigilant.

In case anyone is wondering, these reactions that I saw last night here in Romania are identical to other situations I’ve been involved with in the United States and it has nothing to do with culture or society. There’s always a lot of people who stare and do nothing, there’s always some who get pumped full of adrenaline, and there’s always just a handful who become incredibly calm.

The ambulance crew, six members decked out in bright orange and driving a very modern “bus”, did arrive and they did all the normal things you’d expect them to do. They put a neck brace on her and slid her on a back board and then transferred her onto a stretcher and put her in the ambulance and all of the rest. I’m certainly not a doctor but I felt good that she was in good hands and that she would be taken care of. I don’t know if she was unconscious because she had consumed a lot of alcohol or whether it was falling and hitting her head or what but by the time they got her on the ambulance, she was semi-responsive and had opened her eyes at least.

All in all, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Sometimes people drink. Sometimes people fall. And sometimes people get knocked out unconscious on city streets. God knows I’ve seen it enough times in my life before. So in the larger scheme of things, it almost doesn’t seem worth writing about. I don’t think it even got mentioned in any of the local media. And my guess is that aside from a nasty bump on her forehead, the young woman will ultimately be fine.

But yet for a moment the universe brought us together, total strangers who have never spoken. While others may have stepped in to help if we passed by, for a short time her life was in our hands. I had one hand on her stomach to monitor her breathing and my other hand held her hands to keep them warm. As we waited for the ambulance I looked in her face and I wondered who she was, where she had come from and what led her to be all alone that night on a city street, possibly so drunk that she had fallen and injured herself. I wondered which mother was going to receive a telephone call shortly, which sister or brother or friend or boyfriend was going to worry and then be relieved as they found out she was okay. I wondered how her life would change when she woke up. I wondered if she would have strange dreams and remember hearing voices speaking in English. I wondered about all of the millions of things she would do not just this year but in the years and decades to come and all of it possible because fortunately she had her accident on a busy street and not some untraveled alley, where she could’ve easily died, alone and neglected.

And then – click – it was all over and back to normal. The ambulance popped on its siren and took her on her way. We stood up and adjusted our coats and headed off to the club. The crowd of gawkers broke up and time began to flow normally and everything continued, as it always does and always will, and everyone on the planet went back to living their ordinary lives.

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