A few months ago, I was on the street car when this Chinese woman got on. She was probably in her late 50s to early 60s. Even though it was spring, she still wore a long winter jacket. I watched as she made her way down the streetcar. People parted and let her through the narrow aisle. She sat down in seat in front of me. Her graying hair was coarse and unruly. She started to talk to herself in Cantonese. I couldn’t really make out what she was saying except I knew she was upset. People stared at her.
I felt sorry for her and didn’t know what to do. I think she knew people were watching her but she couldn’t help it. She grew quiet and then would start again. She stared out the window and continued her solitary conversation. I wonder if heart ever felt happiness and contentment. Did she have enough to eat? Did she have enough to get by? I departed at my stop but her image still haunts me and every so often she pries her way back into my consciousness. It was another recent incident that made me think of her.
I was walking to the grocery store the and noticed all the traffic beside me was stopped. I was curious what was causing the standstill. Up ahead a street car was stopped at a streetcar stop and the doors were opened. But no one was entering or leaving. Eventually an elderly man was helped down by another man. As they walked towards the sidewalk, I could hear the younger man say “Do you need to go to the hospital? You almost passed out.” The younger man waved at the streetcar driver and the streetcar moved on.
The elderly man was average height, skinny and unshaven. His clothes were old and well worn. “Do you want an ambulance?” the younger man asked as he led the elderly man into the streetcar shelter. I walked past them, paused and looked back. “Just sit here and I’ll call an ambulance for you.” I asked the guy if he needed to call 911. He said yes and asked if I had a phone. I nodded and called 911. The other guy said he had to leave. I didn’t really want to be alone with this elderly guy. But the 911 operator stayed on the phone with me until the ambulance came. The guy didn’t pass out. But he stood up despite me telling him to sit down. He reached into his pants and said he had to pee. I cringed. People were walking by, no one had a clue what was going on. He peed in his pants and left a puddle by his feet. It slowly trickled down to the road.
He kept asking me if the ambulance was coming. I told him it was just a short distance away. I didn’t smell any alcohol on his breath. But he wasn’t alert. To my relief, the ambulance came within 5 minutes. I told the paramedic what I knew and warned them about the urine. She smiled and said they’ll look after him. Nothing fazes these guys.
I don’t know why I wrote about these two people. They are part of forgotten ones in our city. We avoid them if possible (I sometimes do). But deep down inside, I fear, bizarre as it may sound, I’ll become one of them.