The Ineffectual Samaritan


Last night we made a rookie parenting error, by not going to sleep ourselves when our baby did. That meant the three of us didn’t all settle down to bed until 1am, and Felicity was ready to go again at 4.

Until men figure out how to lactate, we’re always going to feel slightly superfluous at times like these. I can rock our baby and offer encouragement, but not much else, so instead I put on my running kit and slipped out for an easy 6k.

For months, I’ve run around the Marina Bay; there’s lots of choices of different distances to run and it’s all quite pretty. But you need to change things up, so I ran in the opposite direction, through Clarke Quay and along the canal.

There’s a lot of construction work for the new MRT line at the moment, so the path by the water is rather muddled. I wended my way through a maze of bridges, until I reached the spot by Liang Court where there’s always a crowd of drunks at 6am.

Usually they’re all just drinking, or drunk, but this time round there were a bunch of men standing there, looking either bored or pissed off, and three girls on the ground. One was lying flat on her back and the other two were talking urgently to her. I slowed as I approached, wondering if it was time to employ my first aid training.

When somebody is lying on the ground with vomit round their mouth, that’s one of those signs you may need to offer assistance. Unfortunately, when you’re a skinny guy in a pair of shorts and you’re presented with some raging post-teens, it’s a little difficult to help out.

One of the girls looked at me and demanded tissues. Like every man dressed up for a jog is actually on a mission to chope a table in a hawker centre, and thus is bound to have a pack of tissues handy. The other girl started to say “Do CPR!” and then pumped her hands on the prone girl’s chest twice, before asking the air if she should take off her bra.

We didn’t worry about undergarments in the first aid course: you do 25 seconds of cardiac massage, then check the airways, mouth to mouth and start on massage again. Two shoves on the sternum isn’t going to do it.

I figured that as the drunkest girl was actually talking, she wasn’t in cardiac arrest, and the more pressing problem would be if she vomitted again and choked; she needed rolling into the recovery position, not being bounced uo and down on or having chunks of gunk wiped off her face. Prioritise.

Angry tissue girl had now graduated to yelling at people around her to not look at the girl on the floor, and not to dare calling an ambulance. If you don’t want to go to hospital because you’re worried about the cost, or you’re worried your dad/boyfriend/husband/puppy will find out, that’s your own choice. If you’re on the floor with sick on your face and drunk as hell, I don’t believe you want somebody else making that decision about your welfare based on their view of propriety or secrecy.

Trouble is, I’m a single skinny male with several angry women who were drunk enough to misinterpret any attempt to move their friend as some random bloke feeling her up and I have a wife and child that don’t want me getting smashed round the head for trying to be helpful. First aid class didn’t cover what to do with collateral drunkenness.

The men just stood around, either moping or bored. I haven’t run over this bridge for a few months at this time of day, so I didn’t know if this was a regular Saturday morning for everyone involved, or if they just didn’t care. I trotted to the end of the bridge and looked back, to see the legs of the drunkest girl wobble as one of the others did something to her.

My father would likely have had no qualms. In his day, he’d break up fights in Covent Garden by simply grabbing the assailants and throwing them apart from each other. Not bad going for an accountant whose main exercise was photocopying documents. I struggle; I’m more diffident, surprised when rationality isn’t enough to convince.

As I got to the end of the bridge, five or six police officers started walking up it. I told the last one there was a girl passed out who needed attention, and left it to the guys in uniform. I figured a badge and a gun convey more authority than a singlet and a bottle of isotonic drink.

Then I ran on, past more drunks, over a few more bridges and, ten minutes later, back again to placate my worry and curiosity. There was an ambulance parked at the bridge now, which reassured me that things were being dealt with. I hoped a hospital visit might teach her not to drink beyond her abilities in the future. I hoped a stern talking-to might make her friend realize demanding no medical assistance isn’t a good protocol. And, being British, I felt sorry for the medics who’d have to deal with drunks. I wonder if Friday night in the ER is anything like a British A&E, full of angry damaged boozehounds.

Don’t drink and die, people. It shouldn’t be that hard. And next time I’m out, I guess I should think about being more pushy.

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