I wonder if I’ll get a bill for my 911 call…

11 Apr

Well hello there...

There’s something about the first warm days of the year that compel me to spend every possible minute outside. This weekend we as no exception – DC served up two perfect summer days, made even better by my recent exposure to Chicago’s 28-degree temperatures.

Yesterday Alan and I packed a picnic and walked over to the Shirlington Dog Park, which is all of ten minutes from his place. The dog park borders a creek, so it’s not uncommon for people to walk their dogs down the steep embankment and throw balls into the water for their dogs to retrieve. Alan and I spread our blanket on the other side of the bank, where we had a perfect view of all the activity without the smell of dog crap.

Side note: I love dogs. It’s somewhat shocking that in nearly four decades of life, I’ve never owned one. I actively seek out dogs the way some people seek out sales. Instead of going to a mall on a Sunday, I’m more likely to go to a dog park where I can pet something. And if the Humane Society shows up with their Mobile Adoption Center – look out. I might as well volunteer to work the event because I’ll stay until they pack the dogs up and take them away. I also love cats (disproving the scientific law that people are EITHER dog people OR cat people), but I’m horribly allergic to them, so I don’t seek them out as enthusiastically.

Anyway, there we are, picnicking away on some chicken wings, sipping Arnold Palmers, when I spot a man lying face-down on the gravelly bank across from us. As I’m processing this, Alan says, “Something just went horribly wrong.” While I tuned in for the outcome, Alan had seen the man fall down into the ravine. He couldn’t tell if he’d had a stroke and crumpled, or if he’d just lost his footing and then hit his head during his tumble. In any case, he had lost consciousness and landed in an odd position.

Separated by water, we couldn’t reach him to help, so we stayed seated and called 911.

Second side note: I just checked out Wikipedia to figure out when 911 was established as the universal emergency number in the US. Any guesses? 1968. So here’s my question – why didn’t I know about 911 until I was an adult? Growing up, my parents made me memorize the full phone number of our police department (which at the time was only seven digits, as opposed to the ten that would be required today). Why was that? Given the frugality of my family, the only explanation I can come up with is that 911 must have had a cost associated with it.

Interesting tidbit: In that same Wikipedia entry about 911, I found the following, which might provide evidence that – contrary to popular opinion – we are NOT getting dumber:

When the 9-1-1 system was originally introduced, it was advertised as the “nine-eleven” service. The advertising was changed when concerns were expressed that some types of callers, most notably smaller children, tend to be very literal, and might waste emergency response time trying to find a non-existent “eleven” key on their telephones.

Anyway, back on the other bank, four dog owners ran over to the downed man and worked together to roll him over. The whole thing played out like a drama staged specifically for our entertainment, though it definitely wasn’t a comedy. After about seven minutes, we heard the wail of sirens, then saw two fire trucks and an ambulance.

After some driving that would’ve made the Keystone Cops proud, they finally figured out that they’d need to access the man on foot and stashed their vehicles in a parking lot. About this time, we saw the man  lift an arm. Whew – he wasn’t dead! But he also didn’t scramble to his feet and chase away assistance.

He remained unmoving on his back and the EMT workers strapped him to a stretcher, which they then tied to a rope and pulled up a ladder that they’d propped against the bank to serve as a ramp over the sharp rocks. Within minutes, he was stuffed in the ambulance, and our civic duty was behind us.

As we packed up, I asked Alan, “So is that how you thought the picnic would go?”

“Well, let’s not say expected,” he told me. “Hoped, perhaps, but never expected.”

Smart ass.

One Response to “I wonder if I’ll get a bill for my 911 call…”

  1. Alan April 11, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

    I think I need to point out that he was moving and responsive when they carted him out of there, and my smartass comment was not as callous as it sounds …

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