Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

Copyright Notice

Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Mrs Miller [look her up], and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

In Which I Encounter Brain Damaged People And Am Conflicted

A few months ago at Edge of the West, one of the regulars posted something, and in the comment section someone asked, "What's your point?" My thought was - geeze, it's not like this is a PhD thesis, or a peer reviewed journal article. It's just a blog post. Sometimes you might want to present a collection of facts, write to gather your thoughts or come to grips with something, or just riff on an idea. And that ought to be OK. All of which is preamble to what will likely be a long, rambling, and ultimately pointless blog post.

Last Friday was a very strange day. It started with being awakened by a squawking duck. A mother duck and her 16 hatchlings have been waddling along, hither and thither, behind my yard for a few weeks. My yard is the only one in the immediate area that has a fence (chain link) and the ducklings have been able to get in and out under it. On this morning, Mamma Duck got in and was stuck. She ran back and forth, getting more frustrated and agitated. An upset duck can make one hell of a racket. I threw on some clothes and went outside to try to help her. I will freely admit, though, that I had no concept of what helping a frustrated duck was actually going to entail. Problem solved, though. By the time I got outside, she had found her own way out.

So, the Lovely Wife and I went out to breakfast. We took the morning newspaper along. Our waitress noticed the tragic lead story on the front page about five teenagers who were killed racing a train to a crossing. She made a comment in passing about "stupid teenagers." Something about her speech and mannerisms seemed not quite right. When she came around again to refill our coffee cups, she said she was in a similar accident, years ago, with two fatalities and two survivors. She suffered a closed head injury, was in a coma for seven weeks, and wasn't expected to live. She was pleasant, and did a good job - but clearly lost something in the accident that can never be replaced. We left feeling unsettled.

Later that day we went out to run an errand. Our subdivision opens out to a rather minor major street. A sort distance away it crosses a Major Major street. As we sat at the corner of minor and Major the LW noticed a man in a wheel chair on the edge of Major street. He seemed to be having trouble. I made a quick right turn, and stopped next to him. He said he was OK, and wanted to get to the gas station at the next corner, where Major intersects Major2.

I pulled into a parking lot, handed the wheel to the LW, and moved the wheel chair away from the street. I pushed it to the gas station through the adjoining parking lots. The young man in the chair asked me my name, and I gave him my first name. I asked him his name and he told me, Leroy. I also learned that he lived in my subdivision. All of this was difficult. I had a hard time understanding him. The gas station had a small convenience store, and Leroy wanted some chips and cookies. We also got him a bottle of water, since he has been struggling in the summer heat.

Leroy kept saying he was OK, and didn't need any help. I asked how he was going to get home. "Walk," he said, meaning, rolling in his wheel chair. The LW said we should call the police. But Leroy got very agitated. He did not want the police. So we gave him a ride home in our van. He didn't want a ride home, but acquiesced. Then, he wanted to be dropped off in the street, so he could make it home on his own. Leroy was concerned about getting in trouble with his mamma. Eventually we got him to point out the house he lived in. We pulled into the driveway, and a man came from the house. I helped Leroy out of the van and back into his wheel chair, and turned him over to the man. I told him Leroy was concerned about being in trouble. He told me Leroy had brain damage. This was pretty clear, though, from his physical and mental impairments, his lack of judgment, and the slightly distorted shape of his head.

We left, and finally ran our errand. The LW thought we didn't handle the situation properly. I'm sure we did the right thing, but not at all sure we did it the right way.

Nagging questions:
Should we have called the police. No doubt I will if it happens again.
Did we endanger ourselves? Or put ourselves at legal risk? These thoughts came much later.
How did Leroy get away from his caregivers?
Did they miss him?
Were they looking for him? (Apparently not.)
Did they even know he was gone?
What happened to him after we left?

So, here we are, at last, at the end of a story with no plot, no moral that I can discern, and, as promised, no point. I'm trying to figure out what I should think and feel, but have no satisfying answer.


windhover said...

I'm following your prompt to read about your recent experiences, but must confess that I don't have a clue how to respond, except to say that you did a great deal more than most people would have done, which is to keep driving. I've been in similar situations and regretted intervening, but I don't see how any person of conscience could feel right doing less.
My real reason for commenting is to take note of your required reading list. No doubt it doesn't begin to cover all you've read, but it suggests to me common interests. I notice also that you cite Bacevich. For a different perspective on empire building from a guy who influenced Bacevich, look for a book by William Appleman Williams titled The Tragedy of American Diplomacy. Bacevich wrote the afterword for a reissue of the book, first published 50 years ago.
Enjoy your posts on the Corner. If someone had told me as little as a year ago that I, a guy who just got a cell phone 7 months ago, would be blogging, I would have laughed out loud. Such is life.

windhover said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Jazzbumpa: I think you handled everything just right. Too many would have just driven on. No way to know what happens to the person. But his chances of being OK were greatly enhanced by your actions.

Jerome said...


Many years ago I was driving down a street and came to a nursing home. As I was passing by the home I noticed an old man in a robe walking as fast as he could and about a hundred yards behind him there were two men in the kind of uniform a nursing home attendant would wear. They were jogging and obviously after the old man. As I passed the old guy he started waving toward me in a frantic manner. I stopped, reached over and opened the passenger door to my truck and before I knew it he jumped in. "Get me outta here!" he yelled over and over again. I took off and could see his pursuers in my rearview waving at me just as excitedly as the old man had.

The old guy was crying now and mumbling about wanting to go home. However he couldn't recall where home was. He said to take him across town and let him out and he'd figure something out. And that's what I did. I'll never forget his teary face and confused look as I drove away. I was eighteen years old. For forty two years I've never regretted that man's shot at freedom.

J said...

Don't get off the boat, as the dude tells Willard in Apocalypse Now.

I don't advise hangin' with the EotAM history-hipsters either--a blogger's known by the company he keeps--but it's a free country, sort of.

KittyB said...

Jazz, I hope you won't mind if I speak to Jerome's comment, first.

Jerome, I was horrified when I read your comment. My mother is now 92. She lived with us for 20 years and now she has a full-time caregiver in a lovely condo. She HATES it. She can't understand why a stranger is living with her, and why we won't let her go "home." Unfortunately, for the past few months "home" meant the place where she lived as a teenager. Right now, I'm not sure what she means by "home." Mother is well into dementia, having suffered encephalitis.

When my mother was at the nursing home, she would pack her bag at night and sit in her transportation chair at the front door, waiting for someone to open it for her. During the day, she cruised the halls, casing the joint, waiting to make her escape. Had she gotten out, she would not have been able to tell anyone who her children are, or how to reach them.

My point in all this is that by giving that man a ride, you were putting him in potential danger. His very brief stab at freedom could have resulted in tremendous danger to him, and possibly being incarcerated until police could figure out where he belonged.

I'm not without compassion. I understand that you were giving him a last chance to have some control over his life, and, after watching my mother deteriorate, I can appreciate how we ALL want to control our own destinies. But, before you opened your car door, you had no way of knowing what mental and physical challenges the man faced. I'm not sure you made the best choice. I think the consequences of your actions outweighed the pleasure gained from your brief conspiracy.

On the other hand, I do think Jazz should have assisted the young man in the wheelchair. He was clearly in danger, and no one appeared to be there to assist him. I'd have been tempted to call the police, if only to bring it to his care giver's attention that they needed to do a better job. But, I probably would have helped him home, as you did. I never think about legal liability until after I've done something like this, but putting him in your van was very dangerous. If you don't have adequate insurance (AND an umbrella policy!), perhaps walking back home with him would have been the wiser choice.

We all second guess our actions. There needs to be more compassion in dealing with those who are less fortunate. I'd say you made your choice from your heart, and that it was the right choice for that specific instance.

BadTux said...

We had a recent incident here in Campbell, California, where a man suffering Alzheimer's wandered away and his locator bracelet failed so his caregivers could not find him. A massive volunteer effort and a couple of alert 11 year olds finally found him yesterday, sleeping in a ditch, unharmed other than being a bit skinnier and a bit dehydrated.

I don't know that there's a better way to handle things when you come across someone like this. There's different ways, but not better ways. In this case of the 63 year old Alzheimer's sufferer, the shop owner called the police because the man obviously needed immediate medical attention. But if the man had been alert and seemingly well, would it have been wrong for the shopkeeper to call the caregivers instead? Or to drive the man to the man's caregivers' home? I don't think there's any "wrong" in any of those.

- Badtux the Seen-it-before Penguin

Jazzbumpa said...

Windhover -
Thanx. More full disclosure: I haven't read every book on the required list in its entirety. The Conservative Mind is particularly appalling. By Pg 35, I was ready to throw it in the trash.

Sallie -
Thanks for the encouragement.

Jerome -
We disagree a lot - which I cherish - but I believe we are kindred spirits. And pretty close to the same age.

J -
I really have no idea what in the hell you are talking about.

Kitty -
It's an open forum. Have AT IT. And thanks for your insights.

BadTux -
Great to see you. Thanks for stopping by. This is a surprise. I just discovered your excellent blog yesterday, following a commenter at The Anonymous Liberal. Glad the Campbell incident had a happy ending.

J said...

Good Samaritanism generally backfires (and could cost you, legally as well). That's what I was talking about. I'm not a hard-core machiavellian, but generally refuse to assist in any street-situation, unless life-threatening emergency as they yawp.

BadTux said...

J: There is nothing more certain to allow evil to thrive, than that good men do nothing.

I do not know what the proper action to be, but I know what it is not, and that is "nothing". If there is a cost to doing right, so be it.