We used to (25 years ago) pick Darryl up every night around 10:00 PM. He’d call from the pay phone on Barbour Street. He was drunk and cold and wanted a ride to the hospital where they would put him in the waiting room and he would fall asleep in one of the chairs. He could be combative with crews who gave him a hard time, castigating him for wasting precious 911 resources. Sometimes if he took a swing at an EMT, he ended up in jail for the night. I learned early on that it was easier to just pick him up and take him to the hospital than get all worked up about it. Daryl was just a part of the night in the same way the battle ax triage nurse was. You just dealt with him professionally and moved on.
I remember one night, he called an hour or so early. He wasn’t even drunk. He held a Styrofoam box of chicken wings and fries from the local chicken place. It was the night of the NCAA basketball championships and he was excited for the big game. He sat down in front of the TV next to a couple of buddies and rooted for his team while chowing down on his chicken and fries.
He’d be a regular for a few years, then disappear only to reappear again a few years later, back on Barber street, calling from the pay phone that isn’t there anymore. His disappearances coincided with stints in jail when his anger got the best of him or rehab if that’s what the judge ordered..
A few weeks ago, early on a Friday evening, I got called for an unconscious on Barber Street in front of the boarded up grocery store. The fire department was there before me as well as an ambulance crew with two new EMTs. The man was laying on the ground, clearly ETOH and telling everyone to F-off and leave him alone. One of the EMTs tried to grab his arm, as he said “Let’s go, buddy,” but the intoxicated man jerked his arm away, and then took a wild swing that missed by so much, you couldn’t even consider it an assault. I was looking at him like I knew him from somewhere when it came to me. “Is that Darryl?” “Yeah, one of the firefighters said. “He’s becoming a regular for us.”
I stepped forward and said, “Darryl, Darryl. Is that you?”
He stopped swearing at the EMT and looked up at me. There was a recognition in his eyes like he knew me from somewhere, but he couldn’t quite place me. “I know you,” he said. “Is that you?”
“It’s me,” I said.
“My my,” he said. “I know this man.” He held his hand up and I helped him up.
“Why look at you,” he said. He turned to everyone and said. “He and I went to rehab together!” Then to me, he said, “Look at you! Look at you now! Oh! You’ve done well for yourself. You’ve done well for yourself!”
He gave him a bear hug, and then looked at me again. “You’re looking great,” he said.
“You’re not so bad yourself,” I said. “You know why we’re here, right?
“Was I making trouble?”
“You just can’t sleep on the ground without expecting someone to call 911. We just see if you’re alright.”
“I’m all right. I’m glad to see you.”’
“You know where you are?”
“Very good. If you are able to walk away. We’ll leave you alone.”
“All right. I’ll be walking.” Then he stopped and said. “Look at you. This here’s my friend,” he said. “We were in rehab together. He’s doing all right. We both all right.”
Whether 911 was called again later, I don’t know. He walked off under his own power, and I went home at the end of my shift, and told my wife the story.
If he did end up in the ER, I hope whoever took care of him, treated him okay, not getting riled by his rough manner, getting him some ginger ale and a sandwich and maybe letting him watch TV if a game was on, keeping him dry on what turned out to be a rainy night.