To get to work, J– and I have to park in a lot a little bit away from our buildings; not a bad walk for working at the U. To get to our buildings, we shoot down the parking lot and take the sidewalk (I know, stellar blogging, but hang on).
The sidewalks are, well, crappy. Not that the cement is jutting out all over the place, they just happen to run in front of student housing, a business that doens’t open until 8ish, and parking lots maintained by workers who don’t get to that part of town until well after 8. Generally, when you come into work, thye’re icy and snowy, but passable. Today was your standard day after snowstorm sidewalks.
So, as we gingerly made our way across the parking lot, a woman, in full It’s-20-Outside-In-Michigan gear walking in front of us slipped and fell down. Not fell like both feet went over her head and she broke the fall with her neck fell, but slipped and kind of collapsed to the ground, bent up in a full-length padded parka, boy wasn’t that lucky I could’ve been hurt sort of fell.
To back up a second. There is, in the social order of things, an implied level of involvement for a person observing an event. If I see a car accident in the distance (say a half mile away), and that car is surrounded by other cars that are stopping, I am pretty much absolved of having to cross a few lanes of traffic and stop to describe what I’ve seen to the police . Conversely, if I see someone fall down walking on icy sidewalks, but that person is a fair distance away, obviously not hurt (physically), and gets up immediately to keep walking, I’m pretty much free of responsibility to check on that person. Sure, if I was some do-gooder, I might, but I’m not that guy.
So, we are gingerly making our way across the parking lot and see this woman (not in the parking lot) fall, we both did the classic “Oooh” face, but neither of us felt compelled to run to see if she was ok, call an ambulance, or generally cause a scene. Falling can be an embarrassing thing and the speed with which this woman lept to her feet had all the earmarks of someone who didn’t want you to notice she’d just fallen. Both J– and I can relate.
How wrong we were. As we hit the sidewalk, a good 20 feet behind the once-again ambulatory Women Who Fell, she turned on her heels and opened with “Isn’t it funny how no one asks you if you’re ok anymore?” To which I immediately responded with “Are you ok?” Apparently this wasn’t what she wanted to hear as she countered with “You did see me fall, right?”, her eyes darting from my face to J–‘s face back to mine back to J–‘s in some kind of psychotic visual radar, probing for guilt or concern. She must have sensed something because as she turned once again to peel down the sidewalk she said “You must have, I see it on her face.”
She then walked to the bus stop on the corner by our buildings and stared at us as we passed like we were supposed to have a blanket and a warm cup of coffee for her, preferably something that came with a shaft of light built in so as to illuminate her presence to everyone else.
This is a stunning sequence at 7:30 in the morning. It’s slightly less stunning that it happened in Ann Arbor, but still not something you’re prepared to deal with on a Monday morning. I might have felt bad later for not asking, but after that exchange, I feel sorry for the people she is currently regaling with her story of the two insenstive clods who didn’t help the poor Woman Who Fell.