Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Those tiny little decisions that can make or break lives

Anyone who has ever looked at this blog knows I don't like what Vancouver has become. Once in a while I had doubts whether I maybe was exaggerating and that maybe Vancouver isn't as bad as the picture I paint of it.  
Yes, all that exhaust gas forms the air we breathe

These doubts vanished on Friday night around 9 pm close to mid-span of Lions Gate Bridge.

Propelled by lithium (in my battery instead of as a prescription ;-) I barrel up the slight incline towards the bridge's mid-span when I see someone sitting on the railing. I brake hard and come to a stop right in front of the guy, maybe a meter away from him. 

He looks at me, I look at him. I think the first words spoken were mine "Hi. You weren't.....Were you?"  The look on his face is all the answer I need.   "Could you do me a huge favour and come down from there?"  I'm not actually thinking. Police negotiators would be horrified.  It's just the automatic thing to say. And I blurt out "How weird, I just read that yesterday: 'Life isn't actually that bad, it's just the way we look at it'. Let's go for a drink! ".  Is there a punishment for people talking weird shit to a potential jumper if the jumper jumps after hearing it?

I don't know.  Because he comes off the railing my way. It all seems so surreal two days later.  I can't remember whether I extended my hand and said "I'm Chris" when he was still on the railing or when he had come down already. But he takes my hand and says "I'm X".  

The spot seen on the ride back
Then there is a guy sprinting on foot from the other end of the bridge. He and his friend had seen X on the OUTSIDE of the railing, shouted something at him, and parked their car at the end of the bridge.  Long story short. One of the two calls the police (more to get our potential jumper the medical head-care he probably needs than calling law and order).  We are slowly walking towards Stanley Park with X, exchanging names and engaged in light chatter, when four (4) squad cars with flashing lights arrive and close one lane of the bridge. In the minds of the 3 people accompanying X on the walk off the bridge, the drama is over.  Not quite so. The cops shoulder-block us away from X, and a woman cop faces us close-up and says "Thank you for your help. Go home now". They always do that. Our unison reply is "We don't think so!".  Against our protestations, X is handcuffed right there on the spot.  My comment of "He needs someone to talk to, NOT handcuffs" is noticed but ignored.  I know that it was noticed when I push a cigarette between X's lips later and my comment of "Handcuffs are really an issue for smokers" results in one of the cops storming towards me, stopping with his shoulder a few inches from my chin and shouting at the top of his lungs "YOU HAVE TO STOP SAYING THAT".  Doesn't Vancouver Police have a psychological evaluation for people applying for the job???

But the police are not all bad.  When I reply to the lunatic cop with "I realize that it is protocol to put on handcuffs, but I can tell you as often as I like that I think it doesn't make sense. And I certainly do NOT appreciate your attitude" his partner nods very lightly. And when I ask one of the female officers whether she is not going to give me a ticket for not wearing a bicycle helmet she can't help but laugh out loud.

Frustrating Vancouver: Being rained on all day and only seeing the sun set in the evening

After a few hugs for X, we all go our separate ways, leaving him in the care of the VPD to convey him to the psychological ward of some hospital.

A day later or so, this thought enters my head: What if he had gone the other way?  Never mind the thought of watching someone disappear right in front of you.  The thought that sent terror in my soul is that for the rest of my life I would have been wondering what exactly it was I did wrong in that split-second before his mind gave his legs the command to push off.   Sitting on a railing on a bridge is one of those things in life.  There are only 2 ways to go.  That simple decision didn't only save his life.  It saved mine!  

It's odd. The cops thanked me for what I did.   I didn't actually do anything.  It was him who with a very simple decision saved TWO  lives.

Vancouver's bridges are being equipped with high metal barriers on their side.  They are neither nice to look at nor are they cheap.  But hey, whatever the cost, it's a small price to pay to save human lives.  Right?  Or maybe not?  Is that really the reason those barriers are there?  Or are they just another expression of what Vancouver does best, namely hide its misery out of public sight?  Or are they put there to reduce the effect of potential jumpers on traffic?  Whatever the reason, it points to one thing.  The suicide rate in Vancouver is HUGE!

Maybe something should be done to address that problem?  And NO, I don't mean building more fences on bridges; I'm talking trying to turn this city back into a humane and livable place.

P.S.: 4 days after the original event, X is doing much better and will again focus on the task he is good at: researching and exposing misery caused by government decisions in small First Nations communities in Canada. 

No comments:

Post a Comment