Nancy, Sarah and I are sitting at a corner table at a restaurant in Norwalk. I am facing the wall. Well, I’m facing my wife and daughter, but I mean my back is to the room. I don’t enjoy this position, but someone has to take it. We’re just forking into some calamari, when the woman behind me screams. It’s not like the high-pitched, “I’ve just seen a mouse!” scream, but it’s dramatic. This is one reason why I dislike the back-to-the-room seat. “Oh my god. That man! Is there a doctor here?” Screaming lady has stood up, and is walking to the center of the dining room. I feel that it’s okay to turn around and check out the scene. You’re allowed to stare when someone is hollering for a doctor. At first I look at the man who is with the screaming woman. Is he choking? No. That’s silly. Why would the woman have said, “That man,” if she meant the man she was with. But what is it then?
She continues yelling. “Really! Is there anyone here who’s a doctor? A nurse? There’s a man down.” The way she says “Man down,” is right out of a movie. I scan the restaurant floor. It’s mostly just feet and chair legs, maybe a few purses.
“Oh my God.” That’s Sarah talking. I turn back to the table and see that Sarah is pointing behind me toward the table where screaming lady was sitting. I swivel again, and this time, through the floor-to-ceiling window, see the man. He’s outside the restaurant on the steps just outside the door. He’s flat on his back and looks like he’s out cold, or worse.
The yelling woman has actually gotten almost no attention from the restaurant patrons or staff. She seems shocked that there is not a single doctor in the room. She turns back toward us, a look of disbelief on her face. “Really, I’m just a teacher,” I say to myself. I feel like she thinks someone at our table is a closet doctor. Maybe she had been overhearing our conversation over the calamari. Sarah works for an eye doctor, so she had been talking about the lunch spread with the the big drug rep. She may have been mentioning some of the medications he was peddling. This all runs through my head quickly, but then the reality takes over. I look back at the man. A woman is crouching next to him. She’s lifting his head off the ground. He appears to be regaining consciousness.
“Is someone calling 9-1-1?” Sarah asks?
“I would think so,” Nancy replies. We scan the room. Many of the patrons have resumed their meal, seemingly unperturbed by the commotion of Screaming Lady or Man Down. I look back through the window at the front step. They have the man up in a seated position on the sidewalk. I see him exhale a cloud of mist. He’s breathing. I see the crouching woman and another woman standing on the other side of the man. Screaming Woman is back at her seat. She’s talking to her table mate in a loud voice. “I thought he was dead. Did you see his eyes roll back?” Her partner nods. I know, because I am now fully swiveled, not the least concerned about appearing to stare. “There’s a fire department right down the street. I’m sure they have an EMT,” Screaming Woman says. She’s no longer screaming, but I don’t know her name, so I’ll continue to call her that.
“Did anyone call 9-1-1?” Sarah repeats. We look around to see if anyone is on their phone. Amazingly, no one appears to be dialing, or really paying any attention to the scene.
“I can call,” I offer, reaching for my phone. No one responds. I hesitate. We look back at the man. Now the people are trying to help him stand.
“They’re trying to move him,” Nancy says. “I think they should be waiting for an ambulance.” The man wobbles, and the two women try to help him take a step. Another man appears by their side. He lends his support. Man Down takes two shaky steps and collapses again on the sidewalk.
“That’s it, I’m calling,” Sarah declares. She whips out her phone and dials. She tells the dispatcher the address and the situation, and they say they’ll send someone right away. Sarah stands up and heads for the door to tell the people that she’s called an ambulance. I see them having a brief conversation, and then Sarah heads back toward us. As she sits down she fills us in. “They told me to cancel it. How would I do that? I don’t think you can just cancel a 9-1-1 call.”
“I don’t think so either,” Nancy agrees. “Besides, why would they want to cancel it?”
“They’re saying they can take him to the hospital themselves.”
“Why would they want to do that?” I ask.
“Well, an ambulance costs like $5000.”
“What else did they say?”
“Apparently he had a root canal today and he took some Vicodin. Then he drank at dinner.”
“Ohhh. That could do it,” Nancy says.
At this point the woman and the man that had been helping Man Down, return to the restaurant and pick up a coat and a purse from the table that is diagonally behind us. “Wait, were they sitting right there?” I ask.
“Yeah,” says Sarah matter-of-factly. I had assumed that they had finished a meal and were leaving the restaurant when the man collapsed. Apparently he had just left to get some air.
The couple goes back outside and walks Man Down toward the parking lot. They’ve just gotten out of my sight when the fire engine pulls up from the other direction, its red lights flickering off the walls of the restaurant. We watch as the woman talks to the fireman. She appears to be explaining the situation. Moments later the ambulance and a police car pull up. The man who had been with Man Down approaches the responders and seems to be waving them off.
“It looks like they’re telling them they don’t need the ambulance,” Sarah says.
“I would not want to be driving that man by myself,” Nancy says. “What if he passes out in the car?”
“Do I need to go out there?” Sarah asks. “I did give my name.”
At that point the couple who had been eating with Man Down walk back toward the entrance to the restaurant. They open the door and head to their table. They sit down at their table as the ambulance and police car drive off. They resume their meal. Really? I think. I swivel back toward the wall and face my wife and daughter. Behind me I hear Screaming Lady say, “Well, that was some excitement.”
“Was I wrong to call 9-1-1?” Sarah asks.
“No, I think that’s exactly what you should have done. I don’t think they should have taken that risk. We can just hope that they get to the hospital and he’s okay,” Nancy says. I let her know that I agree, wondering why I wasn’t the one who called.
Then, though it seems a bit inappropriate given the previous events, I reach my fork across the table and stab another calamari.