Sunday, August 8, 2010

Does This Man Look Crazy?

I called 911 last week because I saw a crazy person.

I live in New York, no big whoop right?

OK well I didn’t call 911 exactly, but rather I was transferred to them. Here is how it happened.

I was leaving work on a summer Friday and was strolling along Central Park South, enjoying the sunshine, heat, and smell of horse manure from the handsome cabs lined up to squire tourists through the park.

I was walking amongst said tourists when I saw him heading my way. It was obvious he was very out of place.

He was a tall fellow, with long hair, a beard, and eyes that did not seem to be in agreement on which way to look. He was shuffling his feet and appeared to be extremely out of it.

What was most noticeable about him however was the fact that he appeared to be wearing 2 hospital gowns and he had a very recognizable hospital bracelet on his arm.

I couldn’t help but stare at him as he shuffled toward me. In passing I was able to absorb everything I just mentioned, while also at the same time taking an extra step or two away from him because the guy just looked crazy.

I passed him in a few seconds and looked over my shoulder to stare for a few seconds more. The hospital gown in and of itself could have just said homeless person to me, but the bracelet, that really through it over the edge.

And I started wondering if I should do something or call somebody.

Now, New York promotes safety and awareness by proliferating the phrase “If you see something, say something.” It is a great slogan, but this is a busy city. There is a LOT to see. So much so that it becomes hard to distinguish what you should actually say something about.

There are many things to see in New York. For instance, when I saw that man who was walking a dog who had a cat sitting on its back who had a mouse sitting on it’s back, I felt inclined to say something.

The time I was walking through Times Square and the black superman selling t-shirts pulled me in for an unexpected hug and I accidentally bit his head, I felt inclined to say something.

And recently, and perhaps most horrific, was the 300 pound woman I saw in Brighton Beach wearing a bikini. That was like 5 something’s, and I really wanted to say something.

But a man in a hospital gown with a hospital bracelet? Now that seemed like genuine cause for alarm. You don’t see that every day on Central Park South, or anywhere for that matter.

I had walked another 2 blocks before my paranoid conscience got the better of me. I figured it was best to do something as opposed to just wondering if the guy shuffling down the street was a violent criminal.

So I called 311.

For people living in New York, 311 is like the Google of questions and complaints. New York City promotes the number as pretty much a go to for anything and everything. Need the city to fix a pot hole? Call 311. Not sure when the buses are running? Call 311. The posters are everywhere.

So I figured I would call them.

After a fairly rigorous automated menu I finally got an operator. Seeing as this was my first time calling 311 I tried to keep a pretty level head. The conversation went something like this:

Operator: Hello 311 assistance how may I help you?
Rich: Hi, I was just walking on Central Park South and I saw a man in a hospital gown with a hospital bracelet and he looked pretty out of it shuffling along and I didn’t know if that was something I should tell you about.
Operator: You saw a man who looked like he escaped from a mental hospital? Yes absolutely.

So immediately I got a little nervous because the operator was kind of putting words in my mouth. I myself did not know if he had escaped per say, but rather, just maybe he was just not in the hospital where he should be currently residing.

Maybe he was one of those patients they let out for walks and he just got confused and walked out an open gate or something.

So the operator asked me some more questions before deciding that this was a police matter.

Operator: OK this is a police matter so I’m going to connect you to 911 and speak when they pick up and transfer it to you.

Whoa! 911? Really? Did we have to call them right away? That seems pretty serious. Couldn’t they just send over an intern or somebody in one of those 3 wheeled police cars to check things out?

I mean it’s not like the guy was running anywhere, he was just… shuffling.

So the operator connects to 911 and immediately starts off by giving them my phone number.

Now I’m really panicking. What if they can’t find this guy? What if they do a couple laps around the block and decide this was all a hoax and then track my phone number to my apartment? Then what? Am I going to be arrested for… I don’t even know what!

Fake seeing an escaped mental patient?

So the 911 operator comes on and now it’s my turn to speak. I give my spiel again and tell her it looked like this guy was out of it.

911 Operator: So you saw a man on drugs.

Whoa operator lady! Again, stop with the putting of the words in my mouth. I did not say he was on DRUGS, I just said he was out of it.

I mean there have been a couple of times I have walked around this city after a night on the town when people could have said I looked out of it. Maybe a little bleary eyed, limping a bit from dancing too much, and wearing a drink bracelet and some shirt that looks a lot cooler at 11 pm than 9 am.

Person: Yea I want to a file a report.
Operator: What did you see?
Person: Well I saw a fairly gangly German walking up 2nd avenue in what appeared to be a sparkly shirt carrying 2 umbrellas.
Operator: Yes that’s definitely something you want to report, tell me your location.

I know nothing about drugs. I don’t know my opium from my oolong. So now I’m stuttering.

Rich: Well I mean, I don’t know that he was on drugs, just, I mean, like, he just looked out of it, and I mean I just saw him in passing, but…

I started looking around me halfway thinking I was going to be the one they were looking for.

911 Operator: Alright we are going to see an EMT truck to that location and have them check it out.

At least I had been downgraded from a police officer to an EMT person. I was pretty sure an EMT couldn’t arrest me if the situation called for it.

Did they ever find that possibly crazy man? I’ll never know. But I can be proud that when I saw something, I said something.

And also that nobody has reported me to the police… yet.


Stephanie Ann said...

Definitely best not to engage such a questionable looking person. Someday I must tell you about the last time I played the golf course next to our state looney bin. Slicing into "recess time" was not my intention and I won't EVER do it again.

Anonymous said...

I've had two memorable encounters with EMTs, once in the US and once in London. While the London EMTs took their dandy old time getting to my flat and got mad at me afterward, the worst was the time I called to report a fire in the US:

me: There's a fire at (address)
911 guy: what?
me: There. is. a. fire.
911 guy: Well, who told you that?
me: I can see it.
911: oh. right. yeah. that. I know. we'll send someone.

Krysten @ After 'I Do' said...

Sounds like you did the best thing even though the operators seem to have jumped the gun a bit. At any rate, I hope they were able to help that man out.

DangGina said...

Wow...things are so different in NYC than in rural Idaho. (I know, I said "rural" and "Idaho"--two words that basically mean the same thing.)

You should've called the cops on the 300 pound scantily-clad woman. That should be illegal.

TbR said...

You should be proud. That was a selfless thing you did, with a considerable risk of making yourself look like a pillock. I've never been to NY so based the image in my head on the pigeon lady in Home Alone (only in a hospital gown, not a big coat). Was I close? At all?

librarygirl said...

What I love about your blogs is that they really remind me of my own weird life experiences in a sort of parallel, opposite-side-of-the-world way. I recently encountered a man on the bus who not only had terrible dress-sense, but also exuded an overwhelming stench of pee from every pore of his body. At least I now have a fair idea of what Urine Gone is for... and it also provided some pretty good, if nausea-inducing, blog material. For that I am grateful. Ish.

Adam L said...

I had a similar experience with 911, it was 2am and there was some ruckus outside my apartment window. I had just moved to NY so I was kind of freaked, these dudes pulled this guy out of their trunk and as he tried to run away they were beating his ass. I called 911, they wanted me to investigate. Do they have any weapons?, can you see what they look like?, whats going on? How many of them are there? Listen lady, its a good idea for you to send a squad car or somebody by here, im not sticking my head out the window to question the guys who just pulled some poor bastard from the trunk. Just me calling and giving you the heads up I feel as though my civic duty has been fulfilled.

DangGina said...

Boy, oh boy...what possessed me to follow the link? I knew it'd have to be about sloths! Although that first second of the clip was cute, it sure got FUGLY in a hurry!

Glad I'm not the only one afraid of the bugs, though...

Caroline B said...

You did the right thing - I wonder if they managed to corral the poor fellow? I guess you will never know..

SemperWifey said...

Haha this story just made my morning! Not that the poor guy was out wandering or that you were blinded but some rather plump woman in inappropriate clothing, but the way you wrote it.

Pat said...

Maybe you should have taken a photo of the crazy guy with your phone, or better yet, a short video, since you're so good at that, THEN make the phone call and say, "HERE'S PROOF!" Then who has the last laugh! You did the right thing. BTW, when you looked back over your shoulder, did you see the guy's butt sticking out of his hospital gown? Just wondering!

Deanna - The Unnatural Mother said...

If you see something say something, now we know that you are a rule follower too, as well as a dude that can totally pull-off wearing white pants!