Earlier, friends had texted me, concerned about my safety. But when I responded casually that everything was just fine where I was at, they breathed better.
I just went about my usual business of getting lost on my way to my doctor’s appointment and ending up in Bay View (or something like that) of the Hopkins Physicians campus when in fact I should have reached my destination in 5 minutes instead of 30 – that’s when I began to suspect something was wrong.
Quick calls to the doctor’s office, explaining what had happened, they rescheduled my appointment in 45 minutes, and said, that should be enough time for me to get there.
The doctor was a woman slightly older than myself and with a stern appearance. We didn’t mention my confused state of mind and went straight to my lungs.
“It hurts when I breathe,” I told her.
“Are you a smoker?”
“Of course, I am!”
That’s when she seemed to soften, and we got along really well after that.
“And when are you gonna come back?” She said.
“Um. If I don’t feel better in a week.”
“Good,” she said.
“And, you’re gonna call when?”
“As soon as I feel worse (if)”
And she sent me off to the next stop on my destination, the Pharmacy, which should have my prescriptions ready by the time I got there, since they were faxed during my office visit.
That didn’t happen.
We had Lothario working that day and what I later learned was a new pharmacist.
It was her first day.
Lothario is the most annoying Pharmacy Tech ever. It takes him 50 words to say what he could’ve of said in 2. He loves the limelight.
Every time I have to deal with him, the only thing I wanna tell him is: Shut the fuck up! Just get my fucking prescription.
And now he’s grown a beard. And he actually looks quite handsome. He has very fair skin and a pink tone to his face, and his hair could be a shade attributed to an ancient deity, like Apollo, so he does have some charm.
And he’s got blue eyes.
(Need I say more?)
But he is the most annoying fuck in the world!
2 people is pretty low staffing anyway. But to subject a new pharmacist to a theatrical performer on her first day of the job is plain cruel.
At one point, standing behind the Conductor’s stand, but elevated, and next to the sweet but sheepish pharmacist, he addressed the audience, in his sweet Baritone Tenor:
I want to let everyone know we have everything under control. We’re on top of it. We’re checking you off, as I speak …
(While the pharmacist stared dumbly ahead. And the 20 or so people either waiting to get their prescriptions filled for the past hour or those to check-in with their prescriptions so they could get them filled.)
After an hour and forty-five, I began to lose my patience.
I said to him:
“It’s been more than 15 minutes, you know -”
And he invoked the Doctrine of Uncertainty.
“Things change,” he said.
“We cannot predict that.
Things have changed,” he said.
“No kidding!” I said.
There were 4 chairs against the wall, all of them filled. And a cluster of people idling around the “Drop-off” Counter. And then those standing around those who were sitting, waiting for a chair to vacate.
By this point, the Pharmacist was completely dazed. They said my prescription was ready. And when I checked it, I said: “Where’s the expectorant?” And she said to me: “That one. That one is the expectorant.” And I said to her: “No it isn’t. That’s an inhaler. There should be three prescriptions filled, but you have only filled two. Where is the other one?”
Well, they could only check that information on the “Drop-off” computer, not the cash register one. And Lothario was standing there and he would have to do it, and I said:
Are you kidding? The only thing he likes to do is talk
And then she said to me once they had tracked the problem (“The prescription had been put on hold.” she said. “Why?” She didn’t know why.) that Lothario would mix the formula. And I said:
“What? You’re gonna let him mix the formula?”
At that point, I said.
“I really need to get out of here. Just give me what’s ready.”
When I finally made it home three blocks away I settled at my perch in the middle of 3 windows facing 25th Street my picture window and began to observe the street – my street – the one that had brought me pleasure and satisfaction and an opportunity to think – that’s when I read the text from George. He expressed concern. And I said everything was quiet up here. No problem. And that made him feel better.
But as I began to settle in for the night, I noticed traffic patterns had shifted. 25th Street was quieter than usual. 25th was a street that attracted traffic 24 hours. And here it was, 8pm, and it was quiet. Plus, another odd occurrence was that 25th street was the route to Union General by the Hopkins Charles Village campus. The usual pattern is ambulances go down 25th to pick up emergency patients and come up back 25th to get them to Union Memorial.
But tonight there were no ambulances going down 25th. Instead there were emergency vehicles going in both directions. Some were doubled up. One Police SUV sped by with another one right behind it. Same with fire trucks. Speeding in opposite directions.
I hadn’t followed what had happened that day since I don’t have a television. So at that point I began to assemble the information I had in some coherent fashion.
3:07 PM TUESDAY, April 28, 2015
The first ambulance just rolled through on its way to Union Memorial.
It has begun.
Is it gonna be a long night?
Hard to say.
The city is under military control now. The Humvees will –
Very close to first.
People are staying off of the streets –
For the most part. And traffic is brisk. Busy people rush to meet the 10 PM curfew.
I sat on the bed and looked at the text. Everything is fine here. Quiet.
A HORN STARTS TO BLARES
At first it sounded like some sort of traffic jam up the street. Like someone was sitting on their horn in traffic. At least that’s what it sounded like from my window. I couldn’t see that far up 25th.
After 20 minutes I decided it was time to call 911. I dialed and I got a busy signal. Fuck! (Noodles!) I dialed again. Got through to a recording imploring people not to hang up. I got through. All I could do was explain what I was experiencing and give my location.
I went downstairs to see if my initial impression was correct.
I was totally wrong.
25th was eerily quiet. Nothing. I told this to the dispatcher. I apologized for not being more helpful. She said it was okay. If I heard it, the police would hear it too. That helped.
I went upstairs and for some reason went to the kitchen. We have a small window that faces the cross street here. I looked out the window and saw a fire. A car? Probably. I ran outside and to the car. A car had in fact been set on fire and was blazing. People were standing around chattering.
Did anybody call 911? I asked.
Nobody had a phone to put a call through to 911. That’ll tell you something about the level of poverty here.
The second attempt to call 911 while I was running down the steps resulted in another busy signal.
Fuck, (Noodles) I said.
And I hung up.
This time I could not afford to hang up. I had to get through. Services were needed.
Yes. It’s a car, I shouted into the phone. It’s burning. It’s in flames. Everywhere, I told the dispatcher.
In the meantime, fire trucks were rushing up and down 25th obviously on their way to another urgent report of fire in the city. Police cars too.
After we had waited for about 5 minutes, we saw a fire truck making a right onto 25th street, and we thought that was our truck, and we tried to wave it down but that too sped by. Finally the helicopter appeared, and helped pinpoint the location. Cops and fire fighters were at the scene putting the fire out.
Then it was over.
Except someone would discover that their car had been burned for no reason at all.
(Two more sections to add here.)