As I walked toward the main entrance of my condo building, an African woman appeared to be retreating from the entrance. When I arrived at the entrance, a Filipino man said, “He’s unconscious.” I looked at the figure laying on the floor, his left foot in the door.
This wasn’t the first time I saw people laying on the floor at the entrance. So my first reaction was, “He’s sleeping.”
“No, he’s unconscious.” The Filipino man repeated.
Then I looked closer, and heard loud snoring coming from the horizontal man. We had a bit of a debate about this judgment call—sleeping versus unconscious.
Unable to reach a more decisive conclusion, and seeing that I got myself stuck in this situation, I went up really close to the horizontal man. His eyes were half opened. Although individual differences exist for sleeping style, this style is still a bit outside of the normal range that I know of. The Filipino man was still insisting on calling for help while I was half convinced, and the African woman retreated back into the hallway, staying as far away from trouble as possible.
I didn’t have my phone with me. The Filipino man said something about it not being his place or responsibility to call for help. I was about to go back to my suite to retrieve my phone, but seeing the African woman, I asked her to phone instead. She took out the phone from her big handbag.
But she didn’t appear to know what to do. The Filipino man said, “Call 911.”
After she did that, she asked, “What should I tell them?”
“Get an ambulance,” I said. Although come to think of it, I should have said something like, “Bring us a box of pizza.”
While she was connected to the ambulance dispatcher, I attended to the horizontal man, because I knew that when the dispatcher field the call, he would need to get some information about the nature of the request.
I was watching the horizontal man quite closely, trying to see how I could best describe his current condition. But honestly, he was an enigma to me!
I was telling the African woman what I saw, because she refused to come close to the horizontal man, but then I realized she couldn’t get past the most basic question: “What is your address?”
I think she said the address at least three times already. I was getting a bit pissed at that point. If such a simple question needed repeating, there might be a chance that this horizontal man would die before she could give the address.
So then I took the phone from her and spoke to the dispatcher instead. I said the address to the dispatcher, thinking that he probably needed a hearing aid, but to my surprise, he asked if XYZ was the name of our property. Well, it appeared that he didn’t need a hearing aid at all! So I gave the phone back to the woman.
Later, one of the questions was the age of this horizontal man. We three all said 30. In the entire incident, that was the only thing we all agreed on. Strange. I was never good at guessing people’s age. But in that moment, we were all certain he was about 30.
After that the dispatcher gave the woman some instructions. She did absolutely nothing. I stared at her, questioningly, because I was too far away to hear the exact instructions. But nothing came out of her mouth.
So I asked, a bit louder, trying to speak to her as well as into her phone to the dispatcher, “Do you need me to do something?”
I heard the dispatcher said, “Give the phone to the other lady.”
Then I grabbed the phone from the woman, though she wasn’t really moving. I followed the instructions, and the dispatcher kept me on the line until help arrived. Soon, I told the dispatcher that the ambulance arrived. He told me to get the other lady to open the door for the paramedics. I then passed on the instruction to her. To my surprise, she seemed to take on certain instructions quite well. When the paramedics came over, the dispatcher ended the call.
The horizontal man suddenly woke up and appeared conscious though still horizontal.
Two paramedics came to talk to him. They appeared rather nonchalant, as if they were looking at a dead ant. This attitude surprised me, because when the ambulance came to get me last year, the paramedics were very concerned and somewhat tensed, though I sent them away because I wasn’t the one to call for the ambulance.
The paramedics today asked a few questions. I was surprised to find that the horizontal man lived in our building. I thought he was homeless.
The paramedics came out of the building, without the horizontal man. I asked one of them why they didn’t do anything, not even taking a pulse to check to see if he was okay. They said, “He was an adult. If he didn’t want help, there’s nothing we can do. It’s his right. If he wants to sleep at the entrance and not in his suite, that’s his right too.”
Perhaps we should have called the police instead.
Then I talked to the African woman, and realized that she had an accent and was speaking through a mask. I could see why the dispatcher couldn’t hear her.
Later, the Filipino man talked to me. He appeared to be a professional cleaner for our building. He said, “At least we did our part.”
I didn’t quite catch his meaning, then he elaborated, “If something were to happen to him, and we didn’t do anything about it, it would go against our conscience.”
I was very surprised!
First, he deliberately refrained from doing anything, and now he said he did his part. What part was that?
Second, the idea of guilt never crossed my mind, so I didn’t understand how he would associate conscience with his choice of non-action. If I were to judge someone as not in danger, I would just walk off, free of guilt. But if I were to judge someone as in danger, then I would do something, rather than stood there and waited for someone else to take action. So conscience had no room for me in such a situation.
My individual judgment call was that the horizontal man was simply sleeping, though in the group setting, I chose not to stand my ground because I could not be 100% certain that I was right. Because what’s at risk here was another person’s life, hence I allowed room for doubt and challenge.