Yesterday I was driving down a long, dark two lane road which was extremely busy. There were two people in the truck with me and we were chit chatting and laughing. As I was sitting in this ridiculous stand-still traffic I said out loud...I wonder what in the world is going on up there? Why are we standing still?
And my passengers wondered the same thing.
We started moving again inch-by-inch and I thought I was seeing things when I saw a lovely, little old lady clutching a stack of papers walking toward us. Not on side of the road but IN the road and I realized that she was the cause of the traffic because it was obvious she wasn't supposed to be there.
She passed by my truck and hit the side mirror. I put on the hazards, jumped out and went to see 'bout her.
She was just walking. Oblivious to anything except one foot in front of the other.
Me (rushing to her side): Ma'am, ma'am?
And she stopped and turned to me.
Her: Yes? May I help you?
My passengers jumped out and we all started trying to coax some information out of her. We each instinctively knew to speak to her gently and not startle her. The poor dear had wandered off and she was obviously suffering from dementia. No one touched her, we simply guided her with our own movements to the other side of the road where it was safe and there was a sidewalk. We called 911.
I stopped traffic both ways and busted a U and pulled up on the grass. Traffic resumed.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that no one in traffic got annoyed at what we were doing. They recognized something wasn't right too. The woman right behind me kept nodding with a concerned look on her face.
We stood there and tried to get information out of her waiting on the police. She kept reciting a phone number and we called the number. It just rang and rang and rang.
She didn't know much else of any value to us as we were trying to find out who she was and where she lived so we just talked to her and tried to keep her calm and in a good space.
She was dressed nice and warm. Nice shoes (the soft expensive kind you see on the elderly), a nice wool coat, a sweater, a skirt and a pair of pants. I know that sounds weird (the skirt AND the pants) but oddly, it suited her personality. She came across as very gentile, modest and lady-like. Nice teeth, nice hair.
Somebody took GOOD care of her.
The police arrived and we kept trying to find out where she was supposed to be. She had periods of being belligerent one second and charming the next.
My heart went out to her.
She allowed me to see the stack of paper in her hand but not all. For whatever reason she clutched one piece pretty protectively. I was hoping I could find an address on something but alas...nothing. The police started doing their police work and we worriedly asked what do they do in such situations. We were told that if they couldn't find where she lived while we were out there, they'd have to take her in and fingerprint her hoping she was in the system somewhere so they could get an address and contact her family.
That worried me because I felt like being taken to a police precinct would scare the crap out of her.
There hadn't been any calls from her family yet and we got annoyed when we found out that there were also no calls from the other people on the road ahead of us. See...they HAD to know her being out there was out of the ordinary right? Right. So why in the hell couldn't anyone call the police and let them know something? If they'd called...the police would have had a good idea of how long she'd been out there walking and been able to piece together how far away she lived.
After about 30 minutes one of the policeman removed the rest of her papers from her hand and found a piece of junkmail with an address on it along with the first name she'd given us but a different last name. We deduced that since she'd told us she lived with her mother, father and siblings...she'd given us her maiden name.
She was living in her childhood in her head.
The address was nearby but far if you were her and walking.
The police told us they were going to take her to the address on the envelope and see if that was her home. We breathed a sigh of relief, gave her a hug, and got back in the truck. The policeman stopped traffic so I could get back on the road and we went on about our business.
As we were driving we each got sad. My friend started talking about how grateful they were that their mother, who is elderly, still has her "right mind" and we all started talking about getting older.
When we got to where we were going, the phone rang back from the number she'd been reciting to us. It was her husband who'd only noticed her missing 15 minutes prior. We told him the police were on their way to bring her home. We also told him it might be a good idea to get her an ID bracelet or necklace or something with her name, address and phone number on it to make it easier should she ever wander again. Hell...I think every article of her clothing should have something sewn onto the sleeve with her information.
I can't get that poor, lovely woman out of my mind. She could have been hit and killed on that road wandering out like that.
Be aware of your surroundings when you're out and about okay? If you see something that isn't right...would it hurt to call the police? Just three numbers. 9-1-1. Don't leave an elderly lady stuck out like that. Just...don't.
I'm so disgusted with people behind that. I just can't even fathom NOT doing something to help her and yet...so many can't even fathom helping.