Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Suicidal, or Merely Contemplative, Professional Critic Wonders

Sadly, the East Bay is in the throes of a petty crime wave. There have been a series of robberies, so-called takeover robberies in which the staff and patrons of a business are robbed. These are mostly restaurants, and mostly in Oakland. Not surprisingly, the police, who've not had much success in stemming the tide of homicides, have also been unable to make any headway in these cases. The Guardian Angels have been enlisted by Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, who has been roused from the deep slumber he commenced upon taking office. Most recently, he has called upon the citizens of Oakland for tips, even a $50,000 reward.

So as I walked around Oakland tonight, I thought about the roving bandits and alternately wished to not see them and to see them, so I could call 911 and finally get them caught, and also be that much closer to a house down payment. Win-win. Along my route I saw two patrol cars drive by, which is not typical. Would have been nice to see some foot patrol, too. This is also not typical. But I saw nothing out of the ordinary and set home.

On my way I had to cross a highway overpass. It's not a pleasant vista point: quite noisy, with a very tall sort of barbed fence to discourage jumping. Strangely, there was a man sort of sitting on the top of the sidewalk barrier, staring out over the highway. Since this is so not the place you would stop, but rather a place where you naturally walk faster, I had to wonder, are you thinking about jumping? Or waiting for some hapless passerby to happen along so you can toss them over in a fit of homicidal glee? Contemplating our oil dependent culture? Trying to get inspiration for your next auto purchase?

And as we all know from junior high health class suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I knew that I could not in good faith walk away from this man if he did in fact appear to be on the edge. But I also did not want to be so close to him that I could be sacrificed to the highway gods. Herein lies the dilemma of a Good Samaritan in a violent and unpredictable culture. So I walked by, and when I was way out of arm's length, looked back. He was still there, staring at the speeding cars below. I weighed my options, is this non-emergent or 911, decided 911, pulled out my phone, turned around again, and he was gone.

I was off the hook, and relieved to be so.

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