Less than 10 metres away

WARNING
The following post describes an accident that some readers may find upsetting.
As well, there is language that some readers may find offensive.

Every Friday and Sunday night whenever possible, I like to have dinner at a particular restaurant here in Sydney

I first visited this restaurant in the late 1990s, and for a few years afterwards I went there once or twice a year. In the mid-2000s it moved to its current location near Darling Harbour, and since then my visits increased for several reasons – I began eating out more in general; I liked the ambience, value for money and quality of food, and the pleasant staff have always treated me well.

For a long time I went there once a week, but during the past year I increased my visits to twice a week. During the past few months, though, I often went three or four times a week – I was stuck in a project from hell at work in a couple of offices not far from the restaurant, and after yet another frustrating and tiresome day it was both convenient and therapeutic to go there and unwind for a few hours.

The restaurant is about 30 minutes walk across the Sydney CBD from where I live, and even in the shittiest weather I’ll still go there. For me, it’s a place worth making that effort for, and for three hours or so I can focus on just eating, reading, surfing the net and sometimes writing posts for Black and Blue Man.

Last night was my most recent visit there, and one of the most rewarding – because not only did it help me unwind after witnessing something very distressing while travelling there, but an extra gesture by the staff was greatly appreciated.

*

Friday, 19 August 2011.

At 5:33pm, I left home to begin that evening’s journey to the restaurant.

That afternoon it had rained on and off, so as insurance I carried my umbrella in my hand instead of in my backpack.

A few minutes later, I was heading north-west down the stretch of Oxford Street that leads to its intersection with Crown Street. Night had fallen, there were bright lights everywhere and Oxford was flooded with pedestrians and traffic rushing in both directions eager to get home or have a night on the town.

As I approached the north-east curb of Oxford and Crown, I heard music coming from diagonally-opposite across the intersection – and when I looked that way, I saw a guy with a guitar singing into a microphone within the small Pie Face eatery near the south-west curb. I smiled – that was the fun sort of thing that Pie Face would do.

A moment later, I walked past a young woman who handed me a flyer, and I smiled again as I saw that if I took that flyer to Pie Face tonight, I could get a free coffee or mini-pie.

Grabbing a mini-pie from there later tonight just before I got home was very appealing, and I tucked the flyer into my shirt pocket.

A moment after that, I halted at the north-west curb of Oxford and Crown where the lights on Crown were changing from green to yellow.

The southeast-bound traffic on Crown had already halted, and someone who looked like a dark-haired young man was already halfway across to where the northeast-bound lanes were empty. Many times during the past 10 years or so I’d done the same crossing-against-the-lights when the coast was clear, but tonight I was content to take my time and wait until WALK turned green –

Suddenly, a northeast-bound white sedan shot past on Crown.

Less than 10 metres away from where I was standing, the sedan hit the dark-haired young man with a loud thump near the centre of Crown.

The young man crumpled limply around the front right fender of the white sedan, and then hurtled aside and out of sight behind the first southeast-bound cars waiting at the lights.

The white sedan also vanished, although I don’t know if it continued on or pulled over.

For a moment, time stopped indeed.

My mind raced as I wondered what was the best thing to do.

Across Crown, where WALK was now green, two people were rushing across the now-empty crossing to where I presumed the young man was lying on the road out of my sight.

That helped me decide what to do.

I grabbed my iPhone, looked for the nearest shop doorway and raced inside, where I then dialed 000 and asked for an ambulance.

The operator connected me to the appropriate phone-line, and it rang.

I began pacing back and forth.

The phone kept ringing.

I kept pacing back and forth.

The phone kept ringing.

Why the hell was it taking so long to get through?!?

Suddenly the operator came back on, apologised for the busy line and connected me to another line.

It rang a few times, and then another operator answered me.

I told her where I was, what I’d seen and requested an ambulance.

The second operator mentioned that there had already been two calls about what I’d witnessed, although those calls had reported that a woman had been hit.

I spent the next minute or so to-ing and fro-ing from the shop doorway to back inside where it was less noisy as I tried to verify the second operator’s requests for further details – but apart from about five or six people who had gathered around where I presumed the young man or woman was still lying on Crown, I couldn’t see anything else.

Finally, the second operator asked if I had been enroute past the scene, and as I told her yes but that I could stay and wait if required I began to stammer.

She thanked me and said that it wasn’t necessary, and we ended our call.

I put my iPhone away and stepped out of the shop.

Across Crown, WALK was green again.

There was still a little cluster of people out in the middle of the street near the crossing.

I went over to find two women standing over the young man or woman, who lay still and painfully contorted on the road; another dark-haired man or woman clutching a small child and kneeling at the victim’s feet; and a man kneeling near the victim’s head and studying his smartphone. I wondered if he was looking at the St John Ambulance First Aid app I had bought for my iPhone a few nights before.

Someone had opened a clear umbrella with white trimming and placed it on the ground in front of the victim. It wasn’t raining then, but the umbrella made a good protective marker for the victim’s position.

I approached the two women, and when they saw me coming they both held up a hand indicating for me to stop.

I took that to mean that they and the others had the situation under control – and from what I could see, they did – so I told them that I’d seen what happened and had called an ambulance.

They both nodded and thanked me, and one of them also told me that she’d called an ambulance as well.

I thanked them and left, and continued north-east.

*

For the next fifteen minutes or so, as I reached and then crossed Hyde Park South towards the Sydney CBD, I couldn’t help but think about what had just happened.

But at the same time as my mind raced with second-guessing, I told myself to stay calm and not get upset.

Should I have rushed out to help instead of ducking into that shop to call an ambulance? No – there were already people going to the victim’s aid, and an ambulance was needed as quickly as possible.

Should I have stayed to help the man and women at the scene? No – they looked like they didn’t need me, and that they had the situation under control.

Was the victim still alive, or dead? I hoped alive, or course – but either way, there was nothing I or anyone else could have done to prevent that accident.

Thanks to my St John Ambulance first aid training, though, I had quickly taken action afterwards.

I was a little shaken, but overall I convinced myself to stay calm. Yet again I remembered my Eckhart Tolle, focused on what I was doing now, and continued north-east.

A small pain like indigestion had now appeared just below my chest.

*

The Sydney CBD was even more crowded with pedestrian and vehicle traffic rushing in all directions, but I was mentally prepared for that.

Unfortunately, it was raining lightly again and some folks were rushing even more.

I took extra care as I moved along.

At George and Park with only seconds to go before WALK turned green, a speeding bus swept around from Park onto George and halted with its rear blocking the pedestrian crossing. That certainly wasn’t appreciated, and so as pedestrians walked awkwardly around the bus’s rear I glared in the driver’s direction and meant to yell, “ARSEHOLE!”…but instead, it came out as an uncertain “Arsehole…”

Five minutes later, I was north of the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) and waiting to cross York, it was once again only a few seconds until WALK when suddenly not one but two buses roared through like huge missiles on their way south to the QVB bus interchange.

Fucking buses – but I kept that thought to myself.

Another five minutes later, I was almost at the zebra crossing of York and Barrack when another bus coming south indicated that it wanted to turn into Barrack, and I actually found myself saying out loud, “Oh, no, not another one…”

The bus slowed as it turned into Barrack, but the driver had miscalculated, almost came up onto the curb nearby and had to fart-arse around for a moment to get the bus properly into Barrack. Finally it cleared the zebra crossing, and pedestrians were able to cross.

Fucking buses. Again.

*

The last stage of my trip to the restaurant is a five-or-so minutes walk down the steep slope of Erskine Street.

It was still raining lightly, so I carefully made my way downhill with three sets of busy lights to cross.

At the second intersection, I had just made it to the pavement when suddenly I heard a dreadful familiar sound behind me – the sole of someone’s shoe slipping harshly on wet bitumen.

And shortly after that, a woman screamed, “OH, JESUS CHRIST, ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?!?

I slowed, made sure that I was not in danger of slipping myself, and carefully turned around.

Two women clutching each other tight stepped up onto the curb behind me. They were safe.

I let out a sigh of relief, turned back around and carefully resumed my journey.

That indigestion-like pain was still there.

*

Finally, I arrived at the restaurant.

The staff greeted me warmly as they always do, and asked if tonight I wanted to sit elsewhere else instead of at my favourite table because a large party was going to be seated nearby.

For the next few hours, though, the idea of being near lots of laughing people enjoying themselves was very appealing, so I said that I was happy to sit at my usual table.

I unshouldered my backpack and began setting up my dining area with OCD routine, and as I did my usual jugs of Diet Coke and iced water with glasses arrived.

A moment after that, everything was in its right place – Kindle on its stand, moist wipes and pocket tissues close by, garbage baggie for my used wipes and tissues further away, iPhone as my clock within arm’s reach – and as I poured my first glasses of Diet Coke and water I prepared to just sit there a little while and enjoy the moment of just being there…

…but the line at the prepare-your-own-meal section was growing from other groups that had already arrived, so I decided that I should get some food now.

A moment later, I found myself standing behind a young couple with two infant children slowly preparing their bowls of ingredients, the father cradling one child in one arm as he used his free hand to fill bowls. Part of me mentally rolled my eyes but another part of me told myself to knock it off and just cool it.

I did, and soon the young family picked up speed and moved along.

I filled my bowl, and towards the end I glanced over at the buffet section (included with your prepare-your-own meals) and I noticed that they had different dishes there tonight. That didn’t bother me, though, because tonight’s dishes looked interesting and whatever the restaurant cooks is always good.

I went around to the service area in front of the Perspex-enclosed cooking area where you pass your bowl to one of the chefs through the clearly-marked IN window, watch as the chef cooks your ingredients, and finally move to the clearly-marked OUT window where the chef hands you your freshly-cooked meal.

Most times, diners get the drift by forming an orderly queue to IN and progressing as required to OUT.

Tonight, though, the young family before me and a few other diners hadn’t gotten the drift. Several bowls were lined up on the counter on the wrong side of IN, and their owners were standing every-damn-where.

Without a word, I went around to the correct side of IN, placed my bowl there and stepped back to show that I wasn’t pushing in but that I knew the drift.

Soon, a few more arrivals fell into correct sequence behind me – although the jerk after me not only stood uncomfortably close, but actually slid his bowl right up against mine with a clink.

Fucking arsehole! Get the FUCK out of my personal space!

A moment later, though, he went over to the buffet area for a look, and I moved my bowl away from his.

*

A few minutes later with a steaming bowl of wonderful-looking food in one hand, I went back to my table to finally relax with dinner and reading…

…but when I got to my table, I found another steaming bowl of different food sitting there.

I stopped, and stared.

What was THIS?!?

This new bowl contained what looked like one of my favourite buffet dishes, although it wasn’t available tonight because of the different dishes there.

One of the senior staff hurried over and explained that the new bowl had been specially prepared for me as it wasn’t available from the buffet that night.

For a moment, I was genuinely struck dumb and touched greatly by this unexpected act of generosity and kindness – which was especially appreciated after what had happened during the previous hour, although the restaurant folks knew nothing about it.

Fortunately, though, I quickly remembered my manners, and I thanked them very much a couple of times.

I sat down, fired up the Kindle to begin reading and found the new bowl of food too good to resist, so I started eating from that first.

A few minutes of very welcome eating and reading passed…until I found that the indigestion-like pain was not only still there, but that I couldn’t eat another bite.

There was only one thing to do.

I calmly went to the toilet, occupied a stall and calmly threw up what I’d just eaten.

That pain vanished, and my whole body relaxed.

I stood there for a moment and enjoyed a few deep breaths, and then I washed up and returned to my table.

I settled in with dinner and reading, and later some surfing.

Not long after, the large party at the nearby tables arrived. They were noisy, but it didn’t bother me.

*

A few hours later, on my way home and with my hands laden with two heavy carry-bags of groceries, I returned to Oxford and Crown.

Traffic was flowing normally again, and all sign of what had happened there a few hours before was completely gone.

A few times back at the restaurant, I had checked online for any news about the accident, but there had been none.

To my right across Oxford was Pie Face, but with my hands full of heavy groceries it wasn’t worth the effort to go there for a free mini-pie.

I waited until WALK appeared, and as I crossed Crown I glanced once more at where the victim of the accident had lain.

Again, no sign at all of what had happened there earlier.

I continued past and headed for home.

*

Until next time, stay well and take care.

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About blackandblueman

Black and Blue Man lives in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
This entry was posted in Action, Anger, Gratitude, Life Challenges, My Story. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Less than 10 metres away

  1. Pingback: Linkage is Good for You: School’s in Session Edition

  2. Simon says:

    Wow, nice story, mate. Seems like an interesting night, for sure. Your description of Sydney makes me sad it isn’t used a lot more as a setting for stories – it is a wonderful place.

    I feel like I should do that sometimes, just settle down at a nice restaurant with a good meal and a beer and just relax and read. Sounds great!

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