7.02am

I had another vivid dream last night. It’s been a while since I’ve had one. Here’s how it went:

I am staying in a hotel for work, It is after a conference and people are checking out and going back to their offices. There are a couple of workmates of mine who have already checked out and are getting in to their cars as I head to the reception office. 
 
The hotel is large and reminds me more of a university.  At checkout I have to report that I have lost my keys. They charge me for them and the receptionist is a bit of a bitch. I head back to my room (even though I’ve checked out) and find that the housekeepers have made up my room. Sitting on the pillow with a note are the room keys. The have obviously found them while cleaning up the room. 
 
So I pick up the keys and the mattress and head back to reception. I have the keys in one hand and the other hand over my shoulder hauling the mattress on my back. Once at reception I tell them that I have the keys so they need to give me a refund on the charges they gave me earlier. It’s at this point that I notice that the keys are gone again. The bitch behind the counter gives me a dramatic huffy look and charges me for losing them again. I resolve to tell as many people as possible about this bitch, her shitty customer service, and this stupid hotel. 
 
I head out of the reception and decide to just go to the car and head back to the office. I’m already really late now, and am a bit pissed off about having to pay twice for the keys. As I am walking up the hill, on my right are some buildings that look exactly like the D block at my old high school except that I know that this is a military campus. A Navy base to be exact. People are jogging past in groups. And it seems like a bunch of them are new to the place. 
 
I notice a duffel bag next to some steps and have a look inside and there are the bloody keys. I decide to keep them. Damn it, I have paid for them twice so I feel like they are mine now. I walk a bit more up the driveway and take a left where I find a group of young recruits who are all pink faced after being put through some hard PT by their instructors. They ask me if I am there for Navu stuff and why I aren’t dressed like them. 

7.45am

It is a public holiday here in Victoria today. It is AFL grand final weekend, and because ANZAC Day fell on a Saturday this year, this day off is the compensation. I can’t stand AFL, but hey, I’ll take the day off!

So, you might remember in a post last night that I mentioned that I helped a very distressed drunk lady to her apartment, and as result missed my train and then got caught up in all the train troubles. It was all rather sad, weird, and hilarious all at the same time. This is how it all went down…

I had to make some urgent phone calls right before 5.00pm yesterday at work and in the end I didn’t get away until about quarter past. I followed my usual route toward the station – down the elevator, out the back door of the building, through the laneway, across Flinders Lane, and under the arch of St Paul’s Cathedral. Usually I would cut through St Paul’s car park, head for the Flinders Street / Swanston Street intersection and make my way into Flinders Station, head to platform 10 and board my train, but yesterday things didn’t pan out that way.  As I came out from under the arch, in front of me were a young Asian couple, and as we all descended the stairs toward the car park, at pretty much the same time we noticed there was a lady at the bottom of the steps who looked like she had fallen over and was struggling to stand up.

The three of us bent down to help her and as we did she looked up at us with a pleading look in her eyes and said “Can someone please help me?” She was very distressed and the box of white wine in her shoulder bag, along with the whiff of booze confirmed what I had immediately thought; that she was struggling to get up because she had had too much drink, not because she had hurt herself. The Asian couple and I got her to the top of the stairs and under the arch, and we asked her a few times if she was hurt, if there was someone we could call, or if there was something we could do to help. She kept saying that we needed to call her an ambulance so it could take her home.

I could tell from looking at here that she was emotionally drunk (as opposed to woohoo party drunk), and so when we established that she lived not far away in an apartment, I signaled to the Asian couple that I would take her there. They went on their way, and the lady and I made our way up Flinders Lane. With tears rolling down her face she kept saying “Thank you, thank you for helping me,” and so to keep her calm and away from hysteria I made small talk as we went up the hill. I told her my name and she told me that hers was Jo. I still wasn’t entirely convinced that she lived on Flinders Lane so asked her a couple of times how far away it was and what the building number was. She kept saying “It’s just up here, about 50 meters.”

Eventually she said “Here it is.” I had been holding her arm, but as soon as she saw the doorway she let go to grab her keys, and then promptly tripped on the step, fell over, and then held onto the step as if the world was spinning and she was trying to not get flung off. She started crying again and telling me how stupid she was and that this is why everyone had abandoned her. Being that we were on the street, and conscious of not making a scene I just helped her up and swiped into the building. Of course, there was another flight of stairs to climb before we got to the elevator, but we navigated them slowly, and then pushed the button for her level. She was holding on so tight to my hand that it actually hurt. Poor thing, the world must have been whirling for her. She continued with the apologies and thanks.

Out of the lift she led me to the right and to more flippin’ stairs, but again, slowly, we got up them. The door to her apartment was right at the top so she began to rummage in her bag for her keys with one hand while she gripped my arm like a vice with the other.

It was at this point that I realised that this poor woman was utterly reliant on me, a complete stranger. She was unable to complete even the most basic of tasks. Whatever had happened to her had messed her up pretty bad, and here I was inside a strange building with a strange woman about to go into her apartment. I had a short moment of consideration where I thought to myself “Should I just leave her here? I will be on camera as bringing her into the building and going into her apartment, I hope it is clear that I was helping and that I did not have nefarious intentions.” I thought again that perhaps I should leave her at the door and make sure that she got inside before leaving, but I couldn’t help but think that I could never forgive myself if she walked in, I walked off, and she then fell over and cracked her head open.  She could barely stand on her own let alone walk.

I resolved to at least get her inside and then sit her down on her couch or at her table and then go. Not because I wanted to get away from her, but because I am paranoid, in this day and age, of being accused of doing something bad when all I was trying to do was help. She was in no state to be left alone and fend for herself.

We slowly walked into the apartment and crossed it to her couch where, with tears rolling down her face, and more comments on how useless she was, she plonked herself down and her body racked with a big sigh / sob combination. I was thinking “Okay, cool, so we have made it this far, she is now home, she is on the couch, she is safe,” so I asked her if she was going to be okay and if there was someone I could call to come and be with her. She asked again for an ambulance, but I said that we were at home now and that the ambulance wouldn’t come unless she had hurt herself. I asked again if there was a friend or a family member that I could call and that I would be happy to do so. “There is no-one they have all abandoned me,” she sobbed.

With the plan of taking control, getting her in a good state of mind, and making a quiet exit I asked her what I could do, a glass of water perhaps? She said she wanted some wine. Not wishing to upset her I pulled the box out of her bag and as I did so, because the bottom of it was all wet, the bladder fell through the bottom and hit the ground. Thankfully it didn’t burst everywhere and I picked it up and stuffed it in the box and tried to close the wet cardboard around it. I am not the wine drinker in our house (that’s Mrs B’s department) so I couldn’t figure out which way up the bag should go in the box so that the spout was facing downward, all the time Jo was sitting up on the couch watching me, holding her glass and wavering around unsteadily – I figured that since she wasn’t standing if she tipped over it wouldn’t be far to fall and it would only be on to the couch cushions.

I held her glass by the wine spout and squeezed the button and the wine shot up in the air. I had somehow got the bladder in the box in such a way that the spout was pointing up and not down. Sigh. I twisted it around and poured two fingers of wine into the glass, guessing that would be enough so there was no spillage, and that the twist in the spout might be enough so that in her inebriated state she could not pour herself any more.

She then decided that she wanted the TV on, but we couldn’t figure out how to make it work, so we gave up. I said to her “Look, Jo, I need to go and catch my train. Your phone is there, the wine is there, and I will leave my details in the letterbox so I can make sure you’re okay” I realise now of course that that last bit made no sense, but hey I don’t think there was too much making sense to Jo at that point. She reached up and grabbed my hand, looked me straight in the eye and said “Thank you, you are a good person. There aren’t many good people left in this world,” she reached up like she wanted to touch my face, but I inched out of range as with wide eyes she said “You are an angel Shane, a real angel,” I patted her on the shoulder and assured her that I wasn’t, but was just someone wanting to help.

I said “Right, I’m going to go now, Jo. Is there anything I can do before I go?”

“Could you pray with me?” she asked.

Right.

So I am an atheist, so prayer is not really my thing, but I realised that she just needed some comfort. Having formerly been a Christian, I do at least know how to put a prayer together so I said “Sure thing” and squatted down next to the couch as Jo held my hand.

Before I started I took stock of the situation. Here I am in the apartment of a complete stranger, holding hands with her, and as an atheist, about to pray with her. Mrs B is at home. We are having Chinese for dinner.

“Hi god,” I started. “It’s Shane and Jo here. Jo has had a really bad day and needs some help. Can you please give her some strength to get through the rest of the day? Help her to have a good sleep and a rest and to find someone to talk to tomorrow? She has had a rough time lately and really needs your help and the help of some loved ones. Jo and I say thank you for your assistance.’

What can I say, I am a little out of practice.

By the end of the prayer Jo was thanking me through her sobs, so I stood up, put my hand on her shoulder, and said in a kind but firm voice “Jo, stop crying and look at me.” She gathered herself and looked up. I looked her right in the eye and said “Jo, you are important. There are people who love you. You are valuable and have worth, you are special an unique. You may not feel like it now, but there are people out there who love you and need you. Today is a bad day, but things will get better. Do not give up up, never give up. Tomorrow is another day, and a chance to start fresh. Have a lie down and tomorrow talk to someone. Things feel bad now, but they will get better, you are special and there are people who love you and care for you. Never ever give up.”

She was staring intently, like, right into my soul as I said this, but her sobbing had eased up by the time that I finished. She touched my hand again and thanked me again and told me to go an catch my train. I asked her again if she was going to be okay and she said that she was going to take her shoes off and have a lie down. I helped her with her shoes and she sat back on the couch. I put her glass on the table, and headed for the door. I said goodbye from there and she just said “thank you Shane” again and I made my way out of the building.

As I walked back toward the station I gave a filthy look to the lady from the Little King Cafe who had been at the top of the stairs under the St Paul’s arch and had not offered to help in anyway. I was also then assaulted by a thousand thoughts. Should I have put my details in her letterbox? Left a note on her kitchen bench? Should I go back and check on her? Did I do the right thing? Could I have done more? Should I have left her alone? I guess in the end there was nothing more I could do right then.

When I got to the station, my train arrived and I got in and sat down, still with these thoughts going through my mind.  The train didn’t move at the designated time and then they announced that a truck had hit a railway bridge in Footscray so the line was heavily delayed while they waited for engineers to check it out.

I got off the train and leaned against a handrail and mused that a delayed train was a small problem in comparison to what some people are going through.