My first day back in NYC and at 1pm as I was about to reach CPW to go for a run in the park I heard a loud but not terrifying sound of metal on metal. I saw a woman standing on the corner 20 yards ahead of me raise her hands to the side of her head in dismay. I rounded the corner and there was an SUV on its side, across the entire right lane, its front having knocked down a bus stop pole. A man on a cellphone was already talking to 911. He seemed to think the driver had had a seizure.
I went over and there were already three or four people by the vehicle. You could see inside through the half-open sunroof that had now become a half-open small door.The driver was on his side, unconscious but clearly moving his lips in a twitching sort of way, his right arm arm beneath him and somehow outside the car, but apparently intact. A few people tried to get him out, but it wasn’t possible. There wasn’t much anyone could do though one person did try to put some water in his mouth which probably wasn’t smart. I thought of breaking the rear window but didn’t know how to.
Then, impressively, came the police. Then the fire engines. Then an ambulance. They knew exactly what they were doing. They cleared everyone out of the way. They took tubes to inflate something, perhaps to raise up the side of the vehicle in contact with the ground. They use giant metal jaws like a pliers to open up parts of the car — I think they pulled off part of the roof. Meanwhile someone cut his way through the windshield. They took the man out and put an oxygen mask on him and he seemed better as they put him into the ambulance.
Some people felt obliged to take photographs, clicking away furiously, God knows why — the ambulances, the sirens, the police cars, the fire engines, the blocked road, the overturned vehicle. What were they going to do with them? And one man with an ID around his neck kept trying to get close to the car with a camera, and as the police more and more angrily told him to step back, he tried each time to equally angrily argue and approach from another angle or from behind a fire engine. He seemed to think this had something to do with freedom of expression. I’m not sure how they got rid of him — I saw one policeman reach for handcuffs threateningly.
The police and fire engine men and women were thoroughly fantastic. They did what had to be done, coolly and expertly. They were Hippocratean – first they did no harm, secondly they expertly went about clearing the space, opening the vehicle, removing the man. You have to admire them.
When something is wrong in the physical world, there are often experts who know what to do and you can trust and respect them. The physical world repeats itself and so they’ve seen things like this happen before and they’ve prepared for it. Not always of course, but often.
When something is wrong in the mental or organizational world, most often no one is trained or expert; they pretend to know what’s the right course and tell you what would have happened if they hadn’t done what they did, but no one really knows.