Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Callous in Suburbia

In DC's latest freeze a couple weeks ago, a man died. Jose Sanchez, 31, was apparently beaten over a bottle of beer and was left to die on a Columbia Heights sidewalk while some 150 people walked by him, not a one calling 911 for assistance. And since all public discourse has been narrowed into one, elongated screech of moral outrage, there has been an ass-backwards crue and hy over big-city indifference, a self-righteous cri de coeur over how empty-hearted DCers could leave a helpless man to die (from an internal brain hemorrhage). This is yet another senseless tragedy in the life of the Modern Age, I admit. But, come on. It's not as though none of us has ever passed a sleeping homeless person and thought nothing of it. It's a shame that we've accepted this reality, but we have. We all have. Hell, I'm sure even Mother Theresa has stepped over a homeless person or two in her day.

There is a very valid reason to feel disheartened over this incident. But there's absolutely no reason for this breast-beating public scourge of faux outrage. And no reason that DCers should feel especially guilty. After all, man's-insensitivity-to-man can be found far outside city limits. Indeed, one can even see it in all-mighty suburbia. And you need lok no further than to yours truly to find a hardened heart among you.

The infamous, cold-hearted incident happened this last, ass-freezing Saturday night. I'd just gotten off a nine-plus-hour stint at work and decided to make the fam a little dinner when I got home. I was chopping tomatoes on the kitchen counter when I heard a loud thud outside the window and a woman yelp. I thought nothing of it and kept chopping.

Now, in my defense, I usually leave work a little spacey. I work for a company that produces audio books for the blind. I read for a living. After our narrators finish recording, I review their work. I have to insure that they've spoken every word in a book verbatim with the correct pronunciation and inflection. I also watch out for technical glitches, extraneous noises, bad edits, you name it, to guarantee that each recording is as perfect as humanly possible. After nine hours of such intense concentration, you can understand why I might be a little loopy.

So, even after I heard the thump and the yelp, I didn't pay especial attention to what was going on right outside my kitchen window. I was chopping tomatoes and having a pleasant convo with the spousal unit (Poohbutt having been already put to bed).


"Bill, what was that?"

"Oh, some woman fell on the ice outside," I ho-hummed.

It had been warm those past, few days. Just beyond what I call "our driveway" behind our building--but what our Friendly Local Nazihood Association calls an "access road"--is a long, grassy stretch that is mostly in shadow all ay long. So, even though the snow had mostly melted everywhere else, our backyard had become a football field of ice from constant melting and re-freezing. There was nothing back there but some patios and very rarely any foot traffic. So, I assumed that a bunch of my neighbor's smoking friends were back there and one of them had slipped on the ice.


I figured they were just having a laugh at the clumsy woman's expense.


"I don't know why they're being such jerks about it," I shrugged.

I mean, I love physical comedy as much as the next guy...

"Are you sure she's not talking to you?" my wife asked.

"Hunh? Why would she--"

"Why won't you help me?!!!"

"Oh shit!" I snapped. "But I don't have my shoes on!"


My wife and I rushed for our shoes, threw them on, and flew out the sliding-glass door. There, prone on the ice sheet, was a rather portly white woman whom I originally confused with our neighbor, Spanky (another large woman who likes certain things done to her while screaming to the entire complex what's being done). Spanky once accused me of lying about living in the building so I could gain purchase to her condo and, I guess, spank her. I hate Spanky and thought about leaving her bruised, racist ass there to freeze. But it wasn't Spanky. So I sprang into action.

My wife and I slipped and slid helping Not-Spanky to her feet. I picked up her groceries, skated them over to her condo, and retrieved her behemoth of a boyfriend. Apparently, Not-Spanky usually uses our access-driveway and then drives across the lawn to her place to drop off groceries and then drives back across 300 feet of grass to park her car. But my wife had left our car there that night. So she parked behind us and decided to walk across the ice. Apparently, not her best idea.

Not-Spanky was effusive in her thanks when I returned with the boyfriend. We all introduced ourselves and chuckled over the averted tragedy.

"Oh, it was horrible," our rescued neighbor tittered, still embarrassed. "I thought you couldn't hear me and that's why you weren't coming to help me."

My wife and I looked at each other, more than a little embarrassed ourselves. She seemed to be saying to me, Yeah. Let's stick with that story.

1 comment:

SagaciousHillbilly said...

OFten I go through life thinking about what is coming and what has passed. In other words, my brain is somewhere else. When I am in that state of unconsciousness a lot of shit just floats right by me without my even noticing.
When I'm focused on what's happening now, the world becomes sharp and clear and I see things for what they are.