A month ago I downloaded Superbetter onto my phone. I came up with an identity, chose what I was battling, and created my Epic Win. And then I invented a series of Power Ups- things that would help me feel better, move on and enjoy myself. Things like taking vitamins, exercising, going out with a friend, traveling, writing letters. It's fun. It's colorful and interactive- you can invite your friends to be allies, and the best part is whenever you hit the PowerUp button it makes this little noise, like Mario hitting a gold star and going invisible.
One of my best Powerups is Helping A Friend: anything from giving somebody my full attention, to running an errand they don't have time to run, to bringing over tea when they're sick. The trouble with my independent, self sufficient friends is that they're fairly conditioned to take on their challenges alone. Reaching out for help, something I've pretty much mastered in the last month, is not their first inclination.
So when Randal asked last minute if I could give him a ride to the airport, I jumped on it. It was the middle of the day, I was working and there was a terrible rain storm. The roads were literally flooding. My first instinct was to just not respond- who could blame me?- but I really wanted that damn power up so I got up and drove to his house.
(Besides which, I once tried to shove a white catheter into Randal's brachial artery without success but with a lot of pain, and then he got me a job on the boat and left me letters in the hangar in Juneau all summer. In a week we're going on a yurt-ski-avalanche-trip together. And his girlfriend Beth has been this awesome, intuitive gift to me. I'd like to think I'd have given Randal a ride to the airport regardless. But who knows.)
So I took him to the airport and then turned back for home. Headed North on highway 99, cautiously in the blinding downpour, I drove over the Aurora bridge that connects Fremont to lower Queen Ann. There was a girl on the bridge. She was talking on a cell phone, and standing up on one of the cinderblocks. Right away I noticed that her hand that was not holding the phone was wrapped around the top of the suicide gate that spans both sides of the entire bridge.
The aurora bridge is the second most popular bridge for jumper in that nation. The Golden Gate bridge is number one.
This doesn't look right, I thought to myself, and I reached for my phone. Then I remembered what some of the fire fighters had said during my recent EMT shift downtown, how cell phones were EMS workers worst enemy because people called in false alarms all day long. I didn't want to call the police on a woman who was just pausing to talk on the phone. (On a bridge. In the pouring rain. Holding onto the top of the suicide gate.)
So I pulled a U-turn and passed her again and this time, it was perfectly clear. I called the police. They were brusque and quick. By the time I had pulled off the bridge, made my second U-turn and was again heading North, patrol cars were surrounding her. She sat with her back towards them, face pressed into the gap between the bars. She was shaking with sobs. A female police officer was standing a few feet away. I knew that by demonstrating suicidal actions she would not be allowed to refuse help. And she would not jump. Not today.
I went home through the sloshing streets and sat in the kitchen. I was thinking about the girl on the bridge and hoping this would be the turn around she needed. This was her rock bottom and she would choose not to die. If I hadn't called, I'm sure somebody else would have called. But in that heavy rain, it would have been easy for nobody to notice. I'm grateful for that powerup, that I left the house, that it was me who called. I'm glad that Randall got to Minnesota for thanksgiving.