Thursday, December 23, 2010

Down the Road

This post isn't about living in an old house. It's about living in a neighborhood.

There's an older gentleman that lives somewhere in southern end of my neighborhood. Over the years I have noticed him out walking. Usually around the bridge between Minneapolis and St. Paul.  I've noticed him because he is always walking quite slow, but always with a lot of purpose. Like he has someplace to be. Some days I've noticed he's wearing a big leather jacket on days that are a little too warm for a big leather jacket. I originally thought he might be homeless and living in the park.

The other day I was driving to work. I was late, so a took a little different route than I normally take.  As I drove down the fairly busy street, I noticed a solitary figure slowly walking down the center of the road. He was holding what looked like and old broom ball stick as a sort of cane.  His scarf was dragging behind him in the snow. As I got closer, I realized it was the leather jacket guy. What to do. What to do.

This was happening on a pretty busy street and he was headed for an even busier one. I pulled my car over and walked over, thinking I'd be able to convince him to move over to the sidewalk. Everyone would be happy and I'd be on my way.  I asked him if I could help him over to the sidewalk. He told me with the snow that he couldn't make it through.  He was right. We have monster amounts of snow and you need to be able to climb over piles to walk a city block. I was also trying to decide if he was either drunk or not entirely with it.  He seemed sober and we had a short coherent conversation (granted I did most of the talking). So, I told him I was worried a car was going to hit him and asked him if he would move over closer to the side just to make me happy. He nodded and moved over closer to the side of the street.

I wasn't sure what else I could do. Surely, I couldn't offer to give a total stranger a ride to places unknown. Right? If you know anything about my luck, you would know that this would mostly likely result in some huge misunderstanding that would end up with me being charged with kidnapping....or I would be victim 28 of the newly identified black leather jacket serial killer. So, I slowly drove off.  I saw other cars behind me slow way down to go by the gentleman, who was now over more to the side of the road.

Well, you can imagine my dismay when on my way to work this morning, I spotted a lone figure working his way down the center of the street.  When I got to work, I went to the Minneapolis city website. I started calling.  I was just hoping to find someone that could check this out. Make sure this guy is ok....and if he needs a little help figure out how that could happen.  He's on the street at the same time every day (well, so far). I thought it would be easy for some responsible party to just roll by and check things out.

I called the Senior Ombudsman. Their suggestion was to call 911 if I saw it again.  I called the Minneapolis 311 number and a very nice operator suggested I call the Hennepin County Adult Protection.  I called Hennepin County Adult Protection and they told me that if I didn't know his name or address, my only option was to wait for it to happen again and call 911. My experience with Minneapolis' finest has not been good. The thought of them man-handling this senior gentleman makes me reluctant.

At this point, I realized it was easier to locate someone to report an animal in possible trouble to in Minneapolis than a person.

I don't want to be a busy body. If I were him, I'd be ticked as hell if someone tried to tell me what to do...or worse yet interfered. But, the other side of me couldn't take it if I saw a news story about a man hit while walking down the street right before Christmas.

Do I get up tomorrow morning and innocently drive down in that direction to get my latte? If I see him, do I call 911?  Am I inserting myself someplace where I don't belong?


Kate R said...'s easier to locate someone to report an animal in possible trouble than a person.

How sad is that. And infuriating.

In this case, I think I would go for the latte & call 911. (Like you said, it would be heart wrenching to read about something happening to him.) Hopefully, getting the cops involved will result in him getting help of some kind. Hopefully.

mimsey said...

It is good to know there are people who are willing to help a stranger. My father, now deceased, used to take long walks regularly, right up until he died at age 83.

If you see him in the street again, stop and introduce yourself as a neighbor, ask him if he would like a lift. I suspect he will say no, and will tell you what his walks are about. This may give you more to go on in deciding what to do. There are too many people driving and using their phone these days. And with the snow, too, narrowing the streets, it is doubly dangerous for the man to walk in the street.

Good Luck.

Barbara said...

If the cops are too scary, can you try to work his name or address into another conversation with him when you go for that latte? Sort of like, "I see you around a lot -- do you live nearby?" (Although that will still leave the weekend with him walking in the street. . .) And if it doesn't work, you can still call 911.

Amy said...

This story makes me sad. I think your instincts to head out and look for him and then call 911 are sound. He may be having a medical issue and perhaps this is one way to get him help.

Karen Anne said...

I'm with Mimsey. I'd stop and chat, explain you're worried about him, and find out what's going on. Maybe he has to get somewhere every day, and you can give him a lift. If he's 80 or so, I think you're safe.

Just because someone is old, it doesn't mean they're mentally incompetent. I can tell you some horror stories I've read about in my local newspaper about the Dept. of Elderly Affairs contractors taking over the lives of perfectly sane people who just need a bit of physical help, ripping off their treasured belongings, etc.

Anonymous said...

You hit it right on the head...this is about neighbors/neighborhood.

Once, years ago, someone did this for my granddad. Noticed. Helped. Called us to let us know maybe he wasn't doing quite as well as we thought he was when we weren't there.

My vote: Stop. Talk with him. Let him know you're concerned. ASK him if there is anything you might do to help and/or let him know what sort of help you'd be comfortable giving.

(I am a registered nurse case manager who works in the field of aging/community services...I would NOT call Adult Protective Services based on what you have described, but I would perhaps make contact with your area agency on aging...most folks know them as the Meals On Wheels people...

Thank you for being a good neighbor to this gentleman! :)

Di said...

I hate issues like this. I was listening to Dave Ramsey the other day, and he was talking about how, since the government has made "charity" their issue, people have forgotten how to take care of one another. Instead of wondering, "How can I help", they say, "Isn't there a program for that?" So, so true. I don't think you're inserting yourself where you don't belong. If I were that man's granddaughter, I'd be grateful that someone that lives near him was worried for his welfare.

But offering your own help can be scary. We live in a world where we are taught from childhood to be wary of strangers, despite the fact that violent crime is rarely random. And short of offering your services as a taxi, every day, it's not going to solve the problem.

Calling the police is of limited use. Our city police would probably "harass" the old man; most of the county officers I know would give the guy a ride. But that only helps one time, one day. Adult Protective Services is probably over-the-top, since I'm assuming he walks on the sidewalk when it's cleared. He's not trying to hurt himself, he just can't walk where it's safe because of the snow.

I don't know about Minneapolis/St. Paul, but here there is an ordinance requiring that sidewalks be cleared. Perhaps you have a code enforcement office you can call regardingt the blocked sidewalks? Or the street department? Ours have massive snowblowers they use to clear sidewalks in public areas.

Since you've already spoken with him once (good for you!), you've opened the door to helping this guy. Maybe you could talk to him about walking on a side street instead? Or taking a bus? Our town offers discounted rates for seniors. Maybe just by talking to him, you'll learn more and be able to think of other ways to help him.

Good luck!

StuccoHouse said...

I have some good news to report!

I spent the Christmas weekend with one eye out for Black Leather Jacket guy. I also spent a fair amount of time bargaining with God that he was with his family for the holiday. No sight of him all weekend. Whew.

Then this morning, there he was. He was over on the very side of the road (we still have record breaking amounts of snow here...even with shoveled walks, unless you can climb mounds of snow, things are impossible).

He was all spiffed up and in good order. His footing was sure and no more slow shuffling. There was no more of the "fogginess" that surrounded things before. I think we are good.

I forget that you readers don't know me personally :) I am the *last* person on face of the earth that would turn someone's name & address over to a government program. I'll even admit to making the city calls for general info. from a phone that wasn't mine :) But it seemed like a good idea to see what options were out there.

Initially, thing seemed edging towards an "emergency" where I'd have to call 911 or do something.

I will keep any eye on things. It seems this has become a morning situation for me on my drive to work. Black Leather Jacket guy and I are on the same morning schedule. Things appear to be good now....and I also now have a bit of a plan should things go sideways again.

And a huge thanks for all the helpful advice!

StuccoHouse said...

Second day in a row that things seem to be ok. Whatever was going on those days before Christmas, appears to have passed.

Kate R said...

Very glad to hear. Also glad to know you're still keeping an eye on him.

Anonymous said...

I live nearish you, from what I can tell, a little north of the VA, west of the park. I grew up in SoMpls, lived here most of my life. Generally what we do in a case like this is just give the guy a ride. He sounds too obviously old and infirm to be a threat. Just about everyone I know around here has done that sort of thing more than once, I'll spare you the many stories. Sometimes you have to insist and push a little but that's ok. I think it's better than telling someone where and how to walk.

For those who don't know, the snow mess isn't going anywhere before mid-March and it's going to get worse before it gets better. The busy side streets are the worst I think. The city is already over-extended. Technically they'll clear what homeowners can't or won't but practically they can't so we have to watch out for people walking in the street. They will.

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