Is 911 Still a Joke? If It Is, So Are We.

On a weeknight evening I stopped for a bite to eat and a moment of relaxation before I went home.  While I was waiting for my meal, I heard what sounded like a heavy object hit the floor. I looked to my left, which was the direction of the sound and over my shoulder lay a young man, slumping out of his seat and a women helping him to the ground.    At quick glance, it was clear that a medical emergency was taking place.  I immediately picked up my phone to call 911 as the party seated next to the young man and his family started offering aid to Mom, who was doing a wonderful job attending to her son.  

As I sat on hold for at least 10 minutes waiting for a call taker to get on the line, I glanced around the room to see what the other patrons in the restaurant were doing.  Well, they weren’t really doing anything.  No; I take that back – they were all watching.  Watching the mother calmly console her child who was seizing on the floor.  Watching one of the staff go to the back and call the owner out to the incident.  Watching me wait on the phone in hopes that the call taker would quickly answer.  Watching to see who was actually going to call for help.  Watching.  One man in the restaurant even watched to see if someone was going to respond to his “call” for someone to call 911.  Wait, what?!  Here you are sir, sitting at the bar talking with your bar mates, and you asked for someone to call 911?  Could that “someone” have been you? Completely confused, I let it go for the moment but made a mental note to revisit. 

After the restaurant owner was retrieved from the office space in the back of the restaurant, she immediately picked up her phone to call for help.  She was informed that the call was already in progress and that someone was already on hold waiting to provide the emergency information. While still on hold, the young man on the floor was slowly coming out of his seizure and Mom was still doing a great job making sure that her son didn’t try to get up and move about, assuring him that she was there, and rubbing his back so that he could feel her presence.  

Finally, a call taker is on the line!  The address, approximate age, describing the medical emergency while waiting for next steps was in progress.  The call taker says, “I have to put you on hold to get EMS.”  What?!  You are going to put me on hold?!?  I was shocked at the need to hold after already waiting so long to get someone on the phone.  The shock of being put on hold was brief as it didn’t take but a moment for someone else to come on the line.  Thank Goodness!  The next person on the line went through the same variety of questions and made inquiries specifically for Mom and said that help was on the way.  The emergency team showed up after a bit of additional wait time.  They assessed the medical situation, and the young man was taken out of the restaurant by gurney and placed in the ambulance.

This young man was extremely fortunate to have his mother and family there during this very scary time.  It’s not easy to imagine having a seizure and waking up with no one around or without anyone who was willing to aid, but this is mostly what happened that evening.  A surprisingly small number of people seemed to be emotionally available enough to care about what was going on right in front of them.  A small percentage looked as if they would allow themselves to be placed in the position of the parent who was caring for her son and needed someone to be willing to take care of the rest.  And most importantly, there were others that didn’t think that the “someone” to call 911 should have been them. 

Maybe it would be unfair to say that no one cared but, looking at the lack of action throughout that restaurant showed me that we are lacking in our compassion toward one another.  Sadly, we have turned into a society that looks the other way.  People who care not to insert themselves into a situation that has nothing to do with them or the people they care about.

Yes, 911 is still a joke, but as compassionate human beings, in that moment, so were we.  

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Sonya J. Thomas

Cascade Media Group

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Sonya Thomas

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