Wednesday, January 26, 2011

one thing

The late night, mini-supermarket security guard is too big for his shirt. The collar squeezes his neck so hard it seems to distort his head, like someone has taken a partially deflated pink balloon, nipped it half way and drawn a face on the bulge.
‘He was all right when he came in. Well – drunk,’ he says, rubbing his nose on the back of his hand and staring down at the man who is lying half in and half out of the doorway. ‘You couldn’t just drag his feet inside a bit, could you? Then I can shut the doors.’
The moment after we do that a small crowd of zombied clubbers run up against the glass. ‘Let us in. Come on, man. We only want a few things. It’s not eleven yet.’
The guard glares at them and gestures with his hand.
‘Piss off. Can’t you see it’s an emergency?’
They move away, but one of them stays to press her face up against the window, making a shielding bridge with her hand to see inside. Then she takes a step back, and clatters off to catch up with the others.
Meanwhile I’m attending to the patient. He lies on the floor like a washing machine tipped on its side with the door open, a prodigious mess of blood, beer and noodles emptying out of him, fanning in noxious waves across the floor and on into the store. He snores horribly, ropes of blood and what looks like wallpaper paste spattering out of his nose.
‘Tell me what happened again?’ I ask the guard as I fiddle around trying to get an airway in. I could be James Herriott in a barn; any minute now I expect to land a bloody calf on the anti-static mat, but then he vomits copiously again and feebly tries to bat me away.
The guard takes a step back.
‘Jesus Christ. Okay. Yep. He wandered in, headed for the booze aisles, obviously drunk. I politely turned him round by the shoulders and led him back to the door. We even had a little laugh and a joke. Then he seemed to stumble at the entrance, slid down the wall, passed out, and started being sick.’
‘Did he have a fit at all?’
‘You mean did he shake? No. Not that I saw.’
‘Have you seen him before? Do you know his name?’
‘No idea.’

I’m on the car, so I strip off my gloves, stand up and radio for back-up.
‘There’ll be an ambulance along in a minute,’ I tell the guard as I clip the radio back on my belt. ‘Whilst we’re waiting, I’m just going to get a couple more bits of kit. Are you all right here for a second?’
‘Yes. Yes. You get what you need, son.’
He pulls a bunch of keys out of his pocket with a silver chain, then shakily activates the door again. I’m parked right outside, so I don’t have to go far.
When I come back, the guard is arguing with a young guy who wants to go in to the supermarket.
‘I only want one thing,’ says the guy.
‘How many times do I have to tell you? We’re closed.’
‘But it’s not eleven yet.’
‘It’s a medical emergency.’
‘What emergency?’
I come up next to him and for a second there’s the guard, me with a squawking radio, the body on the floor surrounded by a lake of bloody vomit, and the guy. He looks at all three of us, hesitates, then goes to step over the body. The guard grabs him by the shoulder, hauls him back, and shoves him outside again.
‘Out you go.’
‘But I only want one thing,’ he says, then stands back on the pavement, breathing heavily, flexing and bunching his fingers, like a stunt man screwing himself up to take a long, running jump.


Ali_Q said...

I don't think I'd have felt like getting anything if I'd seen the cocktail of filth that had come from the man's mouth...

Your descriptions are wonderful... I think there are a lot of security guards around that look like that, sounds like he was a helpful chap though.

Spence Kennedy said...

He was extremely helpful. He's got a difficult job - standing around all day, dealing with awkward customers. I bet he doesn't get paid all that much, either.

It's amazing how single minded some people can be. It's not the first time I've been on a messy job and been surprised by people stepping over or trying to get by...

Thanks v much for the comment, Alison :)

Jane Brideson said...

When I lived in a large town we tried to help an elderly man who'd collapsed in a doorway - drink involved then too - by calling an ambulance and staying with him. The number of people who tried to step over him was astonishing.
Sadly I think the world can be divided into those who'll stop and those who walk on by totally unconcerned.

Great writing as always.

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Oh Spence, I should know better than to read your Amazingly Well-written and Fascinating blog--while I am eating. Your work excites me and encourages me to relive some of those moments when I was aboard a unit thirty years ago.

Keep writing and saving others. Karma watches.

Unknown said...

I hope they pay that security guard well. I had no idea how popular a late night mini-mart could be. Of course, I live in Las Vegas where all of the markets, even the regular groceries are open 24 hours a day so maybe I'm not a very good judge but still...stepping over a body spewing forth blood and vomit onto the floor to

Gentrie said...

Unfortunately a lot of the world is down right rude, and compassion, well you can forget about it.

Very vivid detail, good job!

saigon said...

is this an excerpt or is this going to be finished?
sounds like a sketch.
nice scene with a masterly depiction of bloodspill

saigon said...

sorry,just read what is your task here. i understand now

Spence Kennedy said...

Jane - Sometimes I think it's a kind of tunnel vision. They've come out on a mission, and they simply have to see it through. I did a job in the street once - a guy painting the outside of a house who'd fallen along with a big tub of paint (on his head - comical, in a Buster Keaton kind of way). He was sitting in the middle of the pavement, covered in paint - and a woman with a buggy pushed right through it all, getting the wheels all painted up. We both watched her making tracks completely obliviously away up the pavement!

LHO - So were you a paramedic 30 years ago? Sounds good...

Sorry about the gory details, btw. I should a bigger warning at the top of the page :/

Nari - We have some 24/7 supermarkets here, but they mostly close around 10 or so. You're right - how weird to step over a body to get a carton of milk!

Gentrie - Maybe these characters would be compassionate if they allowed themselves to look around a little more!

Hey Saigon. Well - it def feels as if my life is one long series of sketches... :0) One day I might take the time to develop all this into something a little more coherent, but at the moment it is what it is - just a series of observations, like a string of photos hung up on the wall with no particular point to make.


Thanks v much for reading, and for all your comments.

Kat Moss said...

So was he just drunk, or was there more to it?

jacksofbuxton said...

Not the nicest of jobs to go to Spence.At least the "patient" will be ok in the morning.Well,apart from the hangover and stomach ache.

Another stellar piece of writing.

Spence Kennedy said...

Well, there was a significant amount of frank blood, and the guy struck me as a hardcore drinker, so my guess would be oesophageal varices - a bleed from a distended blood vessel in his oesophagus (related to alcoholism and a subsequent back-up of blood pressure from the liver). So it was worse than just drunk. The crew took him in, so I didn't get to hear anything more. Didn't even get a name for him, so it would be difficult to follow up. Frustrating!

Thanks for the comments! Hope I didn't put you off your crisps / biscuits / banana ... :/

Steve said...

My wife works for Sainsburys in the City Centre, its open till 11 every night. And every night, without fail, she gets people banging on the glass doors to get in after its closed and they're cashing up. Peculiar how they all 'only want one thing'.
The tills and checkouts are centrally managed, and they all go off at 11 pm. So even if they wanted to they cant sell them anything, even if they've got the exact right money.

Spence Kennedy said...

'One thing', but they'll still grab a basket as they go in. Then they'll take ages deciding on wild or organic long grain brown rice, Shitake or Portobello mushrooms, Chianti or Pinot Grigio.... and still dig around for vouchers at the till :/

BB said...

I swear there is no compassion in people anymore. Good lord, this guy could be dying and all they want is to get what they need. Unbelievable.

Spence Kennedy said...

I'm not sure it's always a lack of compassion, BB. I wouldn't mind betting there's a correlation between the kind of people who would step over a body to carry on with the task in hand, and those who 'freeze' in dangerous situations, because it's outside of expectations, and they don't know how to cope. Maybe it's a kind of social paralysis that happens when the extraordinary cuts across the ordinary...

I know about this stuff. I accidentally watched National Geographic once.

Beautiful Things - Cathy said...

I've been following your amazing blog for a while now.

About two weeks ago I had to use the ambulance service when I woke up with the most INTENSE pain in my chest. My boyfriend dialed 999 and the ambulance was there almost immediately.

I was so humbled by the incredible people who helped me that night. I didn't have a chance to thank the paramedics that night but I'll never forget them.

It turned out to be gallstones. Oh the glamour.

Kim said...

Your adventures are incredible, surreal. I'm completely addicted to this blog of yours.

Be safe out there!!

Spence Kennedy said...

Beautiful Things - Eech! Sorry to hear about the gallstones. That must have been excruciating. Glad to hear the crew helped you out, though - and hope you're feeling better now.

Kim - Thanks v much. They are quite addictive to write, actually. I'd always far rather write a blog post than another chunk of the book... :/

Cheers for the comments! x

Mrs M said...

People do strange things in an emergency. I was in a service station on the M4 - years ago now - and the food servery area caught fire. Proper big flames up to the ceiling. Staff were trying to evacuate the place, but even as the sirens came screaming down the motorway there were people trying to push past the guards on the doors to get into the burning building for a coffee or a burger.

I think we just don't believe that the Bad Thing is really happening near us. If we can keep it normal, it'll all go away.

Spence Kennedy said...

I think that's it, Mrs M. If something extraordinary is happening that you don't expect to see in that situation, you just don't register it (or don't allow yourself to).

I heard a grisly ambulance story from a friend who said he was attending a particularly horrible death at a railway station years ago. The platform was liberally strewn with awfulness, police, ambulance and security everywhere, when a woman came up to him who'd somehow wandered through the cordon. She stood amongst the horror of it all, politely tugged his sleeve and asked him about train times! I think it must simply be that she couldn't acknowledge the scene because she was so fixated on her journey.

Thanks for the comment, Mrs M.

VM Sehy Photography said...

I was thinking maybe it was selfishness that caused people to keep pushing through, but I read your comment about the situation being outside of expectations. I could buy that they're stuck in their routine.

I was helping a kid on the playground after a fall and he's laying on the ground when one of other kids runs and jumps on the twisty pole right next to him. Since our Assistant Principal was around to help, I chased the other kid off. The kid jumping on the pole didn't even notice the other child lying on the ground. Sigh.

Spence Kennedy said...

I do think that sometimes people get so fixated on a particular outcome that it takes an enormous event to break them free of it. I'm as guilty of it as the next person. We've all got things we want to get done! But I think you have to watch it, because ultimately it's the kind of close-mindedness that can have bad consequences.

Thanks v much for your comment, VMSP. (I must admit I may have inadvertently 'lost' some of your other comments, thinking it was spam. I do get quite a lot, all from names that sound v much like businesses. If I did, I apologise!) :/

Liz said...

Hoping all is well you haven't posted in awhile.....

Spence Kennedy said...

Yeah - fine, thanks JW. Decorating ATM (shoot me now...) Just posted another thing tonight. One of the rare follow-ups you get sometimes... :) x

Unknown said...

Just love your descriptions, the more Gore the better for me. The poor security guard was near panicking, poor guy.. but the shopper.... inconsiderate sod!
I am very calm in emergencies until afterwards then I go to bits.

Spence Kennedy said...

It's amazing sometimes how bystanders get fixated on 'one thing' and refuse to see what's going on in front of them. You'll have people stepping over you in the street, or coming and asking directions when you're doing a resus...