Friday, December 19, 2014

Misanthrope

I think this morning proved I probably am one, except in theory.

I was already late for work when I got on my morning East-side bus, the first of two on my 15-mile, hour-long trip to work every morning. The driver, one I recognized, is known to me as being extremely slow and pokey. "Slow and pokey" means to me stuff like: When the green light or left-turn arrow is turning orange, you screech to a stop instead of going ahead. The good, efficient, on-time drivers go ahead.

(Austin's still small-time as far as buses and public transportation go. The buses run sufficiently infrequently that you get to know the characteristics of the various drivers and at what time those particular drivers are on the route. Unfortunately, while you may recognize the crappy characteristics, you can't avoid them since you have to be somewhere -- like WORK -- at the precise time these folks are always driving.)

So anyway, I get on the known-slow-guy's bus, already late to work. We turn on a road heading east through the university campus. At the stop coming up, there's a man, obviously a street person, lying half on the sidewalk and half on the road. It was an alarming sight.

The driver pulls up to the stop and opens the bus doors. The man lying there attempts to sit up, then falls back. The driver then lowers the bus gears, as he would do for someone in a wheelchair or with a cane who needs help getting on the bus. The driver then calls out to the man, "Where are you going, Sir? Do you need help getting on the bus?"

The man couldn't answer, just continued to lie there. He was obviously not trying to get on the bus or go anywhere. He obviously needed a 911 call for an ambulance. The bus driver continued trying to talk to him, trying to ascertain his travel plans. After 5 minutes of this idiotic conversation, the driver finally figured out that he should get on the phone to his dispatcher. Great, I thought. Except his conversation with dispatch lasted another 5 minutes. While the guy was lying there. At one point, the driver asked the man lying there, "How old are you, Sir?"

After 10 minutes of the bus just sitting there, after watching/listening to the driver on the phone either being on hold with the dispatcher or asking inane questions of the victim on the ground, I couldn't take any more and went up to the front of the bus: "Do you want me to call 911? Why are we sitting here? This man needs an ambulance."

The driver, still holding his phone to his ear, just looked at me and didn't say anything. I stomped back to my seat. Sat there for another 5 minutes. (Man still on the ground, driver still with phone to ear, no EMTs or police showing up.)

The bus sat there for at least 10 minutes before the ambulance/police finally showed up. When they got there, they asked the driver, "Was he on the bus?" I felt like yelling out, "No, he wasn't on the bus! He was lying in the street, and we just saw him lying there." Simple answer. But no, the driver mumbled and whatever'd and spent another 5 minutes chatting.

During my 4 years of taking Austin buses, I've several times seen alcoholic homeless guys fall face-first either onto or off of buses, or fall flat out on the sidewalk. This guy was obviously one of those cases. In my mind, the correct response should have been to immediately call for EMS help, then wait for them to arrive, then go on about driving the bus once they arrived. Why all of the lowering of the bus ramp, the asking where the obviously-passed-out guy was going and how old he was, the chit-chatting with police?

What should have been a humanitarian 15 minutes turned into a half hour of me feeling nothing but late for work, and like the biggest misanthrope in the world.

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