Walking home just now, I saw a figure ahead in the darkness, walking through the linear park. A very large, female figure dressed in badly-matched clothing. She was staggering slightly, and weaving from side to side, in the manner of one who is paralytically drunk.
The linear park often attracts the homeless, so I thought nothing of it. Seeing a large drunk female vagrant wandering towards the liquor store on Mass Ave made perfect sense.
As I got a little closer, I heard her mutter something. Several somethings. There was nobody else around. OK, I thought, so it’s the kind of homeless person who hears voices and talks back to them. Nothing unusual there.
I got a little closer still, and noticed with some alarm that the staggering homeless woman was clutching the side of her head, as if trying to staunch a bleeding wound. It occurred to me that maybe she’d gotten in a fight with some of the other bums in the square. If so, I couldn’t really leave her to stagger off to her death with a head wound; I’d have to try and get her some medical attention.
I still don’t quite understand how the whole emergency medical attention thing works in the USA. When the kidney stone decided to bid me adieu and I had to get to an ER in a hurry, I picked MGH on the basis of pure brand awareness, coupled with a knowledge that it was near my location at the time.
Yesterday I discovered I’d actually made a really good choice. MGH is rated as one of the finest, if not the finest hospitals in the Boston Metro area. However, it was pure luck that I knew of it because I’d gone through Charles MGH T-station thousands of times.
Anyway, I had no idea where I’d take an injured homeless person, or if they’d get treatment anyway. Would an ambulance come for them? Would the police need me to make a statement? It was late, and I didn’t really want to learn the answers just now, but I knew I could never leave someone who needed help that badly.
Then I got a little closer, and suddenly I could make out that the woman had a tiny mobile phone in her huge hand, and it was that which she was pressing up against the side of her head. She wasn’t drunk, either; she was staggering aimlessly from the apparent cognitive overload of attempting to walk and speak on a mobile phone at the same time.