Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Monday, August 24, 2009

911 and a Bystander Society

It's been a great summer. I found myself in the Rocky Mountains, Elk Island and Edmonton River Valley more this year than ever before camping, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, etc. I love the wilderness. In fact, I am finding it more and more difficult to live in the city.

Case in point: my wife and I were going to the Strathcona Farmer's Market on Saturday morning when we heard shouting in an apartment from the inside of a building that we were passing. Initially we only heard yelling and I continued to walk on, but my wife and daughter stopped. Urban life tends to make one a bit numb to things such as shouting, car alarms and what not, and instinct is usually telling us to move along - it's nothing major. This is the conditioning resulting from the decline of communities and neighbourhoods in favour of the cubicle and terminal.

...But my wife beckoned me back. As we stood outside the apartment block, things seemed to be escalating with screams to "get off me!" by a woman, shouted retorts by a man, followed by the sound of smashing glass and things being broken and an apparent struggle.

So I called 911.

After giving all the pertinent details to the operator, we stood there, waiting. Someone peered out from the second floor balcony, directly above the first floor apartment where the incident was taking place, but quickly ducked back in. A man in his late 50's/ early 60's walked up to us and asked if 911 had been called. I replied "yes", the man thanked me for calling 911 and continued on his way. It seemed surreal.

I find this sort of thing- real violence - so disturbing and it really seems to dig up experiences embedded in the recesses of my mind, of which I wish I never had (prison, military, child abuse). It was harsh standing outside, listening to the woman screaming and screaming while we awaited the arrival of the Police (which seemed to take forever). If it was the movies, perhaps I would've barged in and taken the guy down, but alas, I'm no action hero. Part of me was saying, you're an ex-tactical team member and Correctional Officer who has been through some serious shit with the big boys, so why don't I just kick the door down and save the day? Again, real life is nothing like the movies. You feel like a coward, useless and full of rage at your inability to stop what's going on... or at least that's how I felt.

Just as the Police had arrived and I was giving the lone female Officer the skinny on what we had observed, a woman staggered out of the building, her face covered in blood. The Officer went to tend to the woman, while I stood there, in the event that I was required to assist in giving First Aid. As this occurred, two male Officers arrived on scene, I spoke with them briefly, and then, aside from giving my contact information in the event of a witness statement being required of me, left the scene with my wife and daughter. As we passed the balcony of the suite where the assault had occurred, a young man in his 20's, wearing no shirt and smoking a cigarette was looking out to see if he could see his victim.

It is sad no one else had called 911. I most likely would not have done so either had my wife not stopped, so full credit to her. In the end, it all makes me so angry: angry at my initial inaction, angry at the violence, angry at the inability to intervene. Then there is the overall sadness of what the whole scenario represents, pertaining specifically to our sense of community and desensitization.

This draws us back full circle to my initial statement of finding it difficult to live in the city. When I am alone in the wilderness doing my thing, one becomes aware of hazards but this is so different from the violence permeating our cities. Being mauled by a bear in the wilderness versus being beaten to death in the city are very different in that in the city, people would walk past, while, in the wild, you are simply left to the fate nature sets out for you. Somehow, in my mind, the nature scenario makes things a little less tragic.

I remember situations in the prison when that thought that flashes through your head: if things go to shit quickly, is your partner going to back you up or abandon you? In fact, there was one night when an Edmonton Police Officer had stopped a vehicle we had phoned in and reported that was stopped near Institutional property. The Officer called our dispatch several times asking for us to back him up, but our Supervisors would not allow us to do so because of their erroneous interpretation of the Criminal Code of Canada and the jurisdiction of Federal Correctional Officers. Finally, myself and another Officer said "fuck this", jumped into one of our mobile patrol vehicles and went out onto the country road surrounding the prison to back the Officer up. When we arrived, the Police helicopter had a spotlight on the Officer, who, in turn, had his weapon drawn and two men prone down on the road. The surrounding area was pitch black and overgrown with bushes as we proceeded to advance on the scene with our weapons drawn and assist to clear and secure the area. In the end, we found weapons and large amounts of cash in the vehicle. So, yes, this was a bit more like the movies, but my point is not to tell some macho tale of bravado, but rather to express that sense of what it is like when you really need help, people are within proximity and able to act, but elect not to.

...and I suppose this also provides an example of the baggage to which I previously referred, and trust me, that's not even the tip of the iceberg...

And that is it. I never met the woman. The Police have not called for a witness statement. Life goes on anonymously. Meanwhile, I'm looking at real estate listings for a nice cave, preferably south facing, close to a river or ocean.



  • At 7:27 a.m. , Blogger Catvibe said...

    Wow, that is really intense!

  • At 5:21 p.m. , Blogger Minister of the Masochistic Truth said...

    It's just a horrible thing to experience. I really don't get violence, particularly domestic violence.

    Glad you stopped by - I see that you've been pretty busy with other things. Hope all is well and wish you the very best!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home