First off, the icebreaker question: What is the strangest thing (or strange things) you have seen or experienced in person?
My wife got home from work about 15 minutes after I did tonight. I heard her pull into the car port in our Man Van. Myself, the mother-in-law and my 2 sons were waiting for mommy to come through the front door. But she didn't. I looked out the door window and didn't see her in the van or in the lit-up car port. What the heck was she doing? All of a sudden she comes from outta nowhere from my right, walking briskly with a serious look on her face motioning with one hand for me to open the door and come to her.
"There's an old guy..." she says. First thought is: manly-protection mode....is there a lunatic on my lawn? Do I have to get the Louisville Slugger?
"He's walking down the street with only hospital clothes on!"
I'm thinking: "Oh that's great. I just made a coffee and want a cigarette...f*** this guy. I've had a long day at work."
But I walk around the corner of the house to look and sure enough, there's this old guy slowly walking down the street only wearing those thin hospital linens and maybe slippers. It's just below zero degrees celsius with a strong, chilly wind from the north happening.
"Are you going to do something?" my wife asks. "His name is _____ ________. He said something about wanting to go home and that he's hungry. I think he escaped from the hospital."
"Or an old-age facility, maybe. You never know," I said. "He's probably senile or crazy." The guy must have been in his 70's.
So I try calling the hospital to see if they were missing a guy under that name. No answer. So I try calling 911. 911 was not working. I had to try 4 times before my call actually got through. By this time I am on foot and Tom (not his real name) has managed to walk along the school fence and behind a huge mound of dirt in the school yard across from our house. I could not see him anymore. I was guessing I was 50 yards behind him.
After a whole bunch of stupid questions from the 911 lady she finally asks me if I can see him, as I'm making my way around this big 20-foot-high dirt pile.
"No, I don't see him."
"OK, well I am sending a squad car out there so we can find him. It's too cold for him out there to be wearing only hospital clothing," she said.
I get around the dirt pile and I cannot see this guy anywhere in the school field. Its fairly dark back there but I thought I could at least make out a moving white figure. Nope.
"This guy is pretty quick," I said to her. "He may be in the next school yard already. I'll keep looking."
I go through the fence into the next school yard and still don't see him. He couldn't have gone far. I was moving quickly.
"I still don't see...wait there he is! He just climbed over a 6-foot fence! I wonder if that is his house."
Quite the mobility on this old man! I was impressed.
"Can you give me the address of that house sir? I'll run a check and see if the occupants match his name." I give her the house number and street and moments later she says: "No, that's probably not his house. Do you have a visual of him still?"
"No," I said, "but I'll peek over the fence."
She then cautioned me about potential dangerous behaviour on the man's part because 'you just never know' and that I was to be careful." I check over 2 different corners of the fence to try get a visual on poor old crazy Tommy but I cannot see him! So I walk back towards the front of the house to knock on the occupants' door and let them know there's a guy in their backyard and that they didn't need to sick the dogs on him. But then in my left peripheral I see a white figure walking down the street away from the house. My mind is blown. He climbed over the fence on the other corner of the yard and I didn't even hear him let alone see him.
By this time I was no longer on the phone with the 911 lady. She had dispatched a car to that location. I'm feeling bad for Tom. He's gotta be freezing his ass off. Fuck, I was wearing a big coat over regular clothing and one-piece long johns and I could feel the bite of the wind.
So I quietly jog up behind him and in a normal voice say: "Tom! What are you doing?"
Completely not startled, Tom replies: "I'm going home."
"Where's home?" I asked.
"Just up here," Tom said, pointing. I'm thinking that if he's pointing at the house I think he's pointing at I know the people that live there and that is not Tom's house. So now I know he's senile. But I go along with it, just to see where this leads because I am intrigued.
"Where did you come from, Tom? The hospital? Why did you leave?"
"I just wanna go home," he says. "I'm hungry and I fucking hate it there, but they keep taking me back there."
"Why do you hate it there? Nevermind that is a dumb question isn't it?"
Tom kind of snickered.
"Tom you are barely wearing any clothes," I said. "Aren't you freezing your ass off?"
"I don't know," Tom says.
"Here, you can wear my coat," I said. It took a while to get the jacket on Tom because his arms were kind of tangled in the hospital attire. While I am getting his arms into the coat, I am feeling guilt. Here's is Tom the hero, who has managed to escape a medical facility somewhere and is determined to get home and eat, and I feel proud of him for accomplishing the escape. I'm feeling like I'm in a movie or something, hanging out with the cool bad guy. But I know that the cops are coming and Tom's mission is about to be terminated. I don't want him to know it was me who called the cops on him.
"Tom, you were in someone else's back yard. I think they saw you. They may have called the cops," I said. It was bullshit, but it was a deflection nonetheless.
"Well then we had better get moving," Tom says. Now he's a 70-something year-old on the run from the law. How sweet is this? "When we get to my house, I'll give you a ride home if I can get my car started," Tom said. However we are now 5 houses past the one I thought he was pointing at and I am thinking Tom has no idea where he's going and that he doesn't live anywhere near this area, or any area for that matter.
"You're right, it is fucking cold out here," Tom says, feeling the warmth of my coat.
"I can't believe you escaped the hospital like this Tom! You're like Jack Nicholson!" I said, thinking of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" even though I was wrong in that because the Indian escapes, not Jack.
"Did he golf today?" asked Tom.
"No, not Jack Niklaus, Jack Nicholson," I replied. "You don't know who Jack Nicholson is?!"
"No. Well I...."
My cell rings. It's a cop who I know personally. "I'm at the address, but I don't see you guys," he says
"We are on Pacific now, man," I say to him. "Drive straight and you'll see us."
I still feel like a dick, and I had stopped walking hoping Tom would walk far enough so that he wouldn't hear me giving the cop directions. But when i turned around, I saw that Tom had stopped walking too and I figured for sure that he heard me.
I conceded. "Tom, I'm afraid your night is not going to end as you planned. I'm sorry. A buddy of mine is coming to pick you up."
"Well I just live right up here," Tom said, pointing again. At that moment the wagon showed up. Tom saw it and said: "He's your friend, hey." My heart sank a lot. I now wished that the cop took longer and that MAYBE we would have gotten to Tom's house. Maybe I would witness his wife or kids getting angry with him for breaking out of the hospital. I was enjoying Tom's company. Tom was a 70-something bad ass who just wanted to get out of a shitty hospital and go home. And maybe I ruined that for him.
Maybe I saved a senile old man from freezing to death or getting run over by a car because in some instances I could tell Tom was not aware of his surroundings. He said he went through those people's backyard because it was a short cut. That it was not.
When the cop shone his flashlight in Tom's face, I could finally get a visual. His face was red and blue. His nose was running badly. When he flashed the light down to Tom's feet all we saw were wet socks! Tough guy Tom!
"Where do you live, Mr. ______?" asked the cop.
"Just in the trailer park over there," said Tom, pointing northwest. Shit! there WAS a trailer park over there. Maybe Tom wasn't so crazy after all.
"OK Tom. I'll take you home," said the cop.
"Give this young man a ride home too," said Tom.
"Nah! I'm fine. But I do want my jacket back," I said with a chuckle.
"Take care, Tom! Nice to meet you!" I said. And that was that. Did the cop take Tom home? Nah, probably back to the hospital, or whatever place Tom escaped from. A valiant effort from an old guy. I'll never forget it. I have never experienced anything like that before.
Life in a northern town.