BR4 The Road Trip.
My departure was not well-planned. I threw some stuff into the car haphazardly, and forgot some things, and brought some things that I didn't need. Fortunately, when one takes a Subaru Outback station wagon all by himself, good packing isn't really necessary. Ambulance Driver came by the house on the afternoon, and we convoyed all the way to Sooper Sekret Site together.
Passing through some construction on the outskirts of Amarillo, I thought about how there was a helium plant nearby, and idly wondered, as a volunteer firefighter, if there were any special considerations for first responders there, with regard to what was basically an inert gas. I began giggling as I imagined the 911 call there:
Dispatcher: "911, what is your emergency?"
Caller: < Lollypop Guild voice > "Come quick, there's been an accident
at the helium plant!" .< /voice >
Well, it cracked my sleep-deprived ass up. I started to call A.D. in front of me, when we topped a hill, and drove through a scene of carnage.
Clothes all over the road. Debris. I swerved to miss what looked like a body. Already a silver SUV was parked on the right shoulder, with no lights on. I stopped, backed up carefully, and pulled in behind the SUV. I could see someone inside it. As I backed, I called Ambulance Driver, and told him that I was investigating and calling 911. He said that he was turning around and coming back.
I called 911 while looking over the car. No apparent damage. I've seen some cars roll pretty badly and still be drivable after the wreck, but you could see something that indicated that it had seen a wreck. I could see nothing. The female driver looked at me in her rear-view mirror as I made contact with Potter County 911. "What is your emergency?" she asked, causing my recently giggling mind to stop down for a beat with self-inflicted deja vu.
"Road blockage. Possible 10-50, unknown type. Copy out-of-state 28." I gave her the tag number and the location.
"Oh, that. We've already had a call about that vehicle" the dispatcher said.
"Well, send me a deputy again anyway, please. There's a bunch of debris in the road just beyond the crest of a grade, and someone is going to have a wreck avoiding it. At least one pile of clothes looked like a body in the road," I said. "It's not, though. I don't know what I've got. I'm going to make contact with the driver, and I'll call you back."
The driver was recoiling within her car, away from the window, as I approached. I could see a dog inside, and hear it barking through the cracked open rear window. I badged her and identified myself as a peace officer, and asked how I could help her. She flung open the door and began yelling at me. Without quoting here, I will tell you that she told me that she had been there for two days and that no one had stopped to help her. She said that her car was dead, and her cell phone was dead. She said that she had no food and no water during that time, and that her poor dog's stomach was rumbling from lack of food. I put my hand to the little dog's nose, and found it very moist. The dog licked my hand (I had been eating beef jerky as road food). Its tongue was very moist. That dog wasn't missing water. No food is bad, but it's water that I worry about.
We were on a significant highway, just outside of a city of more than 120,000 people, in a metro area of about a quarter million people. It wasn't like she was in the middle of the boon docks.
I interrupted her to ask about a traffic accident. She said that there had been none. I asked about someone else in the car. No, just her and her pooch. I asked her how all the clothes and debris got in the road. She got evasive and looked away as she told me that she didn't know how they got there. She amended her statement to say that they were like that when she got there. I looked at the SUV packed full of boxes like the emptied one on the ground. I looked at the slender women's clothes that were at a rough guess appropriate for a woman like the one that I was talking to.
I listened to the woman rail on a bit more. At about this point, Ambulance Driver came forward. He had his tactical light out (where was mine? Didn't I tell you that I packed poorly?), his hand was back behind his hip, and he gave me an eyebrows-up questioning look. I could tell that he had already at a distance been able to deduce what I had figured out: This woman was disturbed. She wasn't making sense.
I asked the woman if she was hurt or ill. She said no, and then said, "Well, I'm not feeling too well, right now!" I almost referred her to a paramedic that I knew nearby. But here's the thing: She was physically fine. She'd been moving around* just fine in that SUV. She gave NO indication of any kind of physical injury or trauma. She might have been emotionally disturbed, but she had made no indications that she was going to hurt herself or other people. She was clearly not telling the truth about it having been two days that she had been there, or of her having no clue about the clothing and stuff in the road.
"Ma'am, I'll get help. Stay in your car." I told her, and muttered to Ambulance Driver that she was 10-96.** I went to the back of her car, called 911 back, and updated them on what I had. They told me that a deputy had already been there, and left. "Well, send a deputy back here, please. She seems to have strewn things in the road, probably to get people to stop. You have a road blockage and a disturbed person here," I said. I looked over to Ambulance Driver. "But we're leaving." He nodded. I hung up. I hollered to the woman that a deputy was en route, and we proceeded on.
Back in the day, I would have stayed on scene until the deputy got there. I would have involved myself more. Possibly hours of my life I would have devoted to a person that didn't specifically ask for my help, when it wasn't my job to provide it.
As it was, I alerted the local authorities. I checked on her welfare, and on that of her dog. And I disengaged. It was my vacation.
*Some might say that she was gesticulating.
**Although he nodded at that statement at the time, A.D. later told me: "I didn't know that 10-code before, but figured, given the context, that it meant 'Crazy Person.'"