Wednesday, 20 February 2008

In Case of Emergency: Break Down

John was looking at the reduced section in Tescos, contemplating the sea bass. Then I don't know what happened. There was a sound like what, which John thought was a crate falling off something and landing and an oh my God and a woman a skinny little Chinese woman on the floor. I guess in that order, John can't remember because it was all at once. He guesses the crate sound was actually the woman hitting her head on the edge of the bottom shelf of the metal unit, because it landed very near it. But that's the wrong sound for that.

Then the woman started fitting, he guesses. Well, she was convulsing. Did she fall because she started fitting or did she start fitting because she hit her head? Can hitting your head trigger a fit? He guesses it can. I guess it can. Regardless, she's there and she's writhing around and he is the closest person to her. So he should do something, he thinks. But what? What are you gonna do John? He doesn't know.

Stop looking at the reduced food (later he will remark to himself that it was all overpriced anyway, when wondering what happens if people want reduced food now that the aisle is closed off).

The worst thing would be for people to think that you were just looking at the food and ignoring the woman in serious need of help right next to your foot. Isn't that right? No, dickhead, at this point it really doesn't matter what people think about you, just help the woman, do something to help the woman. Yeah, that's right, stare at the woman instead of the food. Stare at the woman like a gawping fucking idiot.

Do something John.

Help her.

Get someone.


Hold her head. No. Hold her head? Should you do that? I'd say so, but I'm guessing. Maybe just don't touch her. Touching her is inappropriate. You don't know her. No, that's bollocks, you're allowed to touch her because she's in need of help. But maybe just don't touch her. What if she's broken her neck and you touching her causes her to be paralysed for life? That would be bad. Ok don't touch her.

Call an ambulance. Shit. Do something. Do something. This isn't what Tescos is supposed to be like.

Ok, some guy is here and he's crouched down and he's holding her head. Ok, so call an ambulance. Should you call an ambulance? Maybe she's ok. You don't call an ambulance for epileptic fits right? They just last a minute then the person snaps out of it. Right? Maybe she's not having a fit. Maybe she's just convulsing because she's in so much pain from hitting her head. What does a fit look like? Try to remember. Have you seen someone fitting before? He's not sure. There was this one girl at uni but everyone suspected she was putting it on for attention. What was her name? Ellie? El.. something... Elouise. No . Steph. Yeah, Steph. She was weird, kind of elven, elvish? Elven. So anyway, maybe she was faking a fit in which case maybe you've never seen an actual - What the fuck are you doing? Call an ambulance.

Or just gawp some more. Look at her, she's hideous. Horribly emaciated little thing, all twiggy spasms and howl shaped mouth. John's glad he's not the one touching her. Her hands are curled up, her fingers twitching sticks. Look at her feet, her feet are making fists, trying to punch their way out of her little blue pumps. Look up.

That woman is calling an ambulance. Ok, so call an ambulance as well, maybe it'll get here quicker. Well that's obviously not true. Ok, so just stand back.

The guy is kneeling down holding the woman's head, the woman is still jerking around, that other woman is calling the ambulance. That's it right? That's all bases covered. Relax.

Good job John. Now there's nothing to do, ambulance on its way, guy taking care of her in the meantime. Sorted. So just take a step back and relax. A woman collapsed right at your feet, and now it's sorted and you didn't have to do anything. Good stuff. Bet you feel great. So now what? Continue to stare. Walk off? But you can't walk off, maybe you could do something, no, there's nothing else to do. But you were the closest to her when she fell, so there's some responsibility there right? On your part I mean. And you've done nothing. But you can't possibly just walk off. If you walk off now then you really are the lowest of the low. Just walk off and leave a woman to die, maybe. But then, you're not doing anything so what does it matter? Standing and staring sure isn't gonna do anything. Except maybe make you look stupid/sick/perverse.

Maybe you should ask people to give her some air. No, what the fuck? That's so clich├ęd I mean what? Do you get all your medical training from Hollywood? Yes. You do. So shut up. People aren't even crowding her anyway.

Wait the guy holding her is saying stuff, what's he saying? He's saying he's saying 'somebody help her' he's saying 'I don't speak English'. But he's saying it in English. And he's already helping her. Oh God what is this? All bases were covered. What is this now? The guy is looking at you John. He's looking at you and he's saying 'somebody help her'.

Palms turned up, a slight shrug of the shoulders, wonky mouth. That's right. This foreigner can understand that eh?

Someone is saying to get a first aider, ooh that's a good idea, you should have had that one. There's a Tescos employee standing next to you, and this woman, the one on the phone is going 'GET A FIRST AIDER' and he's going 'there's someone on the way' and she's going 'GO AND GET HIM' and he's going 'he's on his way' and it could go on forever and you're just standing next to him and what are you doing? You're looking at him with contempt because he should be doing something. You're not doing anything but he should be doing something because we're in Tescos and he works for Tescos so it's his problem.

What rubbish. You should be ashamed. Who are you to stand next to this guy and criticise his reaction? I'm tutting at you tutting at him.

Now the woman on the phone is saying that somebody should do something and she's talking to the ambulance people or the emergency services operator or whatever, telling them the situation and then using gaps in the conversation to shout 'somebody do something' again. Some Mexican guy goes hey maybe we should loosen her scarf, let her breathe (hey 'give her some air' was your idea, damn) and then proceeds to bend down and do just that only to be interrupted by the woman - 'DON'T TOUCH HER' - and the Mexican backs off like a shit dog.

'DO SOMETHING'. 'DON'T TOUCH HER'. Well what then you stupid bloody woman? What? Make up your fucking mind. Not everyone can be the one calling the ambulance. Not everyone gets to help her without having to touch her. Just 'cause you bagged the easy job in all this doesn't mean you can get all up yourself thinking you're so great. Now what? She's asking where the first aider is. Good job, we've already established he's on his way you stupid, panicking cow, just stand behind your trolley and feel smug and shut up and do your phone thing.

On his way and now he's here. Big black dude, big fucking smile, looks really friendly, he's got the little green plastic box with the little white cross on it, everyone trusts him straightaway, he knows what to do. Everyone except the phone woman who now switches from asking where the first aider is to telling him to not touch her. For God's sake just shut up woman, you're like a stampede of stupid, just shut your fucking mouth. John, maybe your role could be to knock this bitch out.

So the first aider is saying 'it's ok, I know what I'm doing' and he gets down to work and the freaking out phone woman shuts up. He's introducing himself to the woman on the floor. He's all 'my name's Karl, everything's ok, what's your name?' and touching her hand. She's kind of stopped moving now.

Someone points out that she's bleeding.

Have a little look John. See that? It's the other side of her head, yeah that's it, crane your neck, have a look. Ooh nasty, a sizable pool of blood. Wow, just like on the tele. Now you're thinking she could be dead. She's stopped twitching, there's a pool of blood by her head. What's your reaction John? How do you process this? This is new. It's right out of the ordinary. It's outside of the house of ordinary. It's a new place, outside of the town of ordinary, and this is your first visit. Someone has brought you here without your consent and now you have to figure out how to get back.

Or just marvel. Why not? Take the opportunity to look at this. This is changing the way you think. It's a life moment. It's an experience, a proper experience. So what do you think John? What is this saying to you?

John thinks he should go.

He goes. He walks down the aisle and he goes to the pasta sauces and considers the chilli and garlic one before opting for the pescatori, both Lloyd Grossman sauces. Sure they're a bit more expensive than the Tescos own brand ones (quite a lot more actually, like a pound) but there's a new lease of life in John now, he's going to live each day like it's his last, etc.

Walking back through the store to the tills, you might as well have a look what's happening back with the maybe dead woman. See if Karl managed to save her. Well, she's gone. She's gone, Karl is gone, the foreigner, the Mexican and the crazy lady are gone and the entire aisle is closed off, which John thinks is overkill, a bit, as she collapsed right down the end of the aisle and also she was a very small woman. It is now that John wonders what happens if people want goods from the reduced section. Or cheese, for that matter, which is on the same aisle and is a very popular product.

John buys his things. As he leaves the store, two ambulance people come in and he thinks 'too late' despite not knowing if it is or not. John decides to walk home today, rather than take the bus. Life is for living. He also sends a dramatic text message to a friend which manages to emphasise that something terrible has happened to him, when really nothing has. Something terrible happened to a woman he was near. He decides to stop and sit on a bench in the park, to contemplate what happened in Tescos, and because he now feels determined to appreciate life, appreciate every waking second because life is so short and so fragile and sitting on a bench in a nice park is something that someone who appreciates life does. It is an activity for the enlightened. John is thinking about the woman laying there surrounded by strangers in Tescos. He is thinking he doesn't want to die in Tescos, that's not the place for that. There is a woman exercising on the grass a little way off. She has a ponytail and she's doing some stretches. She is wearing a tight fitting tracksuit. She bends over. John is thinking she has a really nice ass.

John is wondering if he can be bothered to cook pasta tonight. He wishes he had a girlfriend.