Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Safety First

"Not a gift of a cow, nor a gift of land, nor yet a gift of food, is so important as the gift of safety, which is declared to be the great gift among all gifts in this world."
-From The Panchatantra Fables

Last evening, as is becoming my custom, I set out for a stroll to meet my Spouse who again was walking back from work.
I set foot on the bridge and as I did so, glanced down into the undergrowth that runs along by the railroad track and the riverbank.
For once, there was somebody sitting down there. It struck me as highly unusual because I had never seen a soul in that place, but it was rapidly superseded by the fact of his having a towel on his head which was in itself overwritten by the realisation that the towel was the only garment he wore.
I was quite jolted and all of a sudden the path between my Spouse and I seemed ten times the journey. I passed a little old lady on my way; she glided along and I briefly considered warning her of the sight.
However, just a step behind her I met my Spouse and we started out for home, with the old lady in front. I told my Spouse immediately.
Two young women approached us from the direction I had walked in, and warned us; they were quite concerned at the odd spectacle and I explained that I was aware of it having come from that end of the bridge and that we would call the police. We considered it necessary for the safety of the man - who knew what state of mind he was in?- as well as for our own comfort.
The two then indicated that the little old lady really ought to be told before she reached the end of the bridge. Spouse and I hurried and I reached her halfway along the path.
I did my very best, I truly did.
She could only say, "I don't understand. I don't understand."
She spoke no word of English.
I made numerous efforts but all were in vain. I waved my hands. She waved her hands.
I shrugged; she shrugged. I considered that I might frighten her if I continued to attempt to explain what I was trying to tell her and so I gave up.
I inwardly wished her well, said pointlessly that I had only been trying to help, and caught up with my Spouse.
We did telephone the local police as soon as we reached home.
They were extremely helpful and promised to send somebody over to investigate immediately.
Which brings me, at last, to one of the main reasons we are living in the United States.
In Ireland, if one calls the local police station for help, one might be told that one has called the incorrect police station for one's area.
"It's not our jurisdiction," I have heard it sung loftily many times.
One calls, then, the next station and is advised to refer back to the original station or to a third and back and forth it goes until the crisis passes and the need for police is over, one way or another.
It is, in my limited experience, as bad as all that, at least in the area I grew up in. I have heard firsthand tales of police being called about a burglary or somebody having a rock thrown through their window, and the hours and days passed and the police did not arrive.
My Spouse grew up in a different country but with similar tales of woe.
Once, in California, we needed to go out late at night. We lived in our dear small town and my Spouse wore his pyjamas and stayed in the car while I dashed into the supermarket to fetch an item for some project or other he was working on.
He stayed at the far end of the car park. At the time we had cell phones with an unlimited calling plan and between us had endless minutes of time.
I was connected then, via an ear piece, to my Spouse as I exited the store. Several young fellows- at home in Ireland we would refer to them as hooligans- walked close to me and one said,
"do you have any change?"
They did not know that my Spouse could hear everything, or that I had a car waiting for me. They assumed that I was walking home alone.
"No, I don't," I said as amiably as I could. I kept moving.
"Are you lying?" came a voice behind my back.
I turned around and pondered what on earth to reply to that ridiculous and rude question.
"If I was lying, I'd most likely not tell you," I said logically.
They moved toward me and then observed that there was a car, and that I was about to get inside it.
"You're only brave because you have a car," called the leader of the pack.
I said nothing; perhaps they were right but it mattered not. We drove away and left them at a loose end.
The very moment we reached home we called the local police and my Spouse told them that I had been threatened. The police not only went to the store to investigate the matter but kindly called us back later that night with the news that the young men had all been in violation of their parole and that one of them had been arrested.
I want to feel safe; I want to feel that I can ask for help and that it will arrive on time and without discussion about area and district.
Since Spouse entered the United State ten years ago and I six, we have both had numerous positive, reaffirming experiences with the police and we cling to that when wondering where to live, when trying to decide which place satisfies most of our priorities. Because, when all is said and done, no country will have everything we want, all the time.
We feel safe and protected here, and that is no slight thing.


Pappy said...

As a former peace officer, I am pleased that your experience with my brothers behind the badge has been positive. It is unnerving when hooligans attempt to bully law abiding citizens, and always satisfying when they are apprehended and punished. Hope your walks do not hold any further surprises this week.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

I too have been fortunate to have mostly positive experiences with police in the u.s., but I was not born with the demographic characteristics which might prevent positive experiences.

what an extremely odd sight you encountered during your walk - as a most curious mouse, I wonder what the poor man's story is... do you think he was homeless and was perhaps trying to bathe?

best to you as you wander searching for a community which 'satisfies most of our priorities'.... I have found the key to being happy with any place I've lived starts foremost within my own mind and the amount I choose to become engaged within the community I find myself- and the more engaged the more satisfied I am!

you indicate in this post your husband too comes from somewhere else, of course curious mouse that I am wonders where from..... perhaps you wrote about that at some time on cftc, but alas I've not read all


Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

It's been very positive, enough for us to cite it as a point when choosing a home. I wonder if I would appreciate the service so much if I hadn't come from a place where it isn't so good? We'll never know.

Kimy, glad to hear yours were good also. It furthers my belief that police are to be respected in this country. I know I couldn't do their job.
I've been reading local news and I think I've found the guy- it's not good, I'm afraid. I thought the same thing you did but it looks like we did the right thing in calling, judging by what I read. It wasn't so much about his not wearing anything or our being offended, more what it said about his state of mind.
We've tried to be involved in every community we live in- with the exception of this one which is a closed book if your great great grandparents weren't born here. It's just one area though and we will move on soon. I fully agree though about participating in your neighbourhood.
Yes, Curious Mouse, Spouse comes from India. Well caught ;)

Barb said...

How fortunate we are to live in North America! Having recently returned from Ethiopia to adopt a child, I witnessed such sights there as made me so grateful for peace, security & abundance we live with in our country.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Barb, thanks for your input. I do feel grateful for what we have here; as I said I've seen firsthand what a lack of decent police service can do.
Everything goes downhill after that.

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