Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sunday morning on Chapel

It was one of those unusually quiet mornings on Chapel. I sip my coffee with quiet contemplation, savouring the bitterness and waiting for it to wake me up. I sigh with the morning, or it sighs with me - the traffic drifts by in waves with engines roaring and then disappearing into the distance. I watch the figure slumped against the shop window across the road. It doesn't move.

I put my coffee down and reach into my bag to put on my glasses and squint. He doesn't move. I stare through gaps in the traffic at the people walking past him, stepping over his lifeless legs, glancing briefly and then walking on. Person after person in their designer sunglasses and polished manicures ignore him. I should do something, call someone, be a hero, do the right thing. I reach for my phone and ...hesitate.

At the same time as my internal crisis rages a young girl, a better girl than I, walks by and stops. She stares down at the man for a moment and walks into the shop to get help. Another young woman emerges with her, a customer service tag clearly identifying her as a shop girl. She looks around nervously. Another day, another body. It is Sunday morning on Chapel after all.

A girl crossing the road at this exact moment sees shop girl and girl huddled together and holds up her phone like a beacon of light as she hurries on towards them. After assessing the problem, she dials and speaks to someone. Young girl, shop girl and mobile girl all look down at the body slumped against the shop window. It hasn't moved at all. Perhaps there is still someone left in there. Then again, perhaps not.

Neither of the three girls is game to touch him. Shop girl leans in close than then pulls away. Young girl does the same and mobile girl looks around for the ambulance she has just called. Where are they?

Hero walks by; he is wearing Havaianas and work man shorts. This is either a man of many talents or a complete poseur. What Seems to be the matter girls? I imagine him asking. He, too peers closely at the body slumped in the window and suddenly pulls away. Perhaps there is an odour, or something equally offensive about the lifeless man. Hero scratches his head and looks at his companions. The others have already done their bit and he needs to up the ante. He leans down and yells hey! down at the guy. Nothing. Not a twitch. He gingerly leans in closer and closer until he is kneeling on the floor. He puts the man into the recovery position. Surely there is a life in there left to save.

They wait. Traffic begins to back up on Chapel as people in their cars slow to catch a glimpse of the show. I watch their rubbernecking, twisted heads and wide eyes as they struggle between a good view of the man and keeping an eye on the road. The sun beats down on the man in the recovery position. A homeless guy with all his worldly goods in tow has stopped in to have a look too. He speaks to the crowd gathered before moving off down the street in a slow shuffle.

The ambulance arrives without fanfare.

The boys get out of their vehicle and they walk towards the man. There is no rushing or yelling, everything is calm and measured. One ambulance guy leans in closely and says something to the man on the floor. Nothing. He reaches out a hand and does something I can't see through the cars in the traffic. The man stirs and awakes. I can feel the relief from here. The man gets up, stumbles and slurs something at the paramedics. He walks into the traffic and towards my side of the road but heads the other way. The boys look at each other scratching their heads and shrugging their shoulders. All in a days work, I guess.

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