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"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Monday, 28 December 2015

Canberra Stories #4: Emergency


It's been a LONG time between these posts, but after a trip I took to Canberra in July, I had a few interesting stories that I felt had to be shared.

Last time, I talked about coming across some money and having to go through an ordeal to give it back. I mentioned at the end that it led to a new story that was highly embarrassing, but you know what? I just can't bring myself to tell it. It involves food poisoning and bodily fluids, and a difficult attempt to not make a disgusting mess in an already-dirty public bathroom. For now, that story will remain a secret.

My final story came on the last night of the trip. The Improvention festivities had ended and there was a closing night party. I' m not at all the party type - I don't drink and I try desperately hard to get to bed before midnight each night. But this night, I just decided that I didn't want the festivities to end. It was 5am when I finally realised that the only people left there were the ones that had to pack up. So, selfishly, I decided it was time for me to leave as well.

The room where the party had been held was on the second story of a building in the Canberra CBD. When you exit the room, you step onto a tiled balcony. Going to the left or right would bring you to stairs that lead to the street below. On the left, the street on which was my hostel, just 200 meters away. On the right, Canberra's casino. Standing on this balcony having a cigarette were two men - one was Nick, the mastermind of the whole festival. The other was a non-performer friend of his named Jeff. I was saying goodbye to them when suddenly, we heard shouting and banging coming from in front of the casino.

Through a series of trees, the three of us could just see a white taxi and two large youths from whom all the noise was coming. They seemed to be yelling at the driver and vandalising his car. Being 5am, it was safe to assume they were either drunk or high. With barely even a flinch, Jeff finished the puff of his cigarette and said "Better call 000." So I got out my phone and punched in the number - the emergency number for Australia.

I'd never had to call 000 before, but I knew enough to know that whoever picked up the phone would ask me which emergency service I wanted. What I wasn't prepared for was "Emergency services, which city are you in?"
'Um, Canberra CBD,' I said. 'I've-'
*click!* The phone started ringing again.
'Hello, do you need police, fire or ambulance?' Came a second voice. There we go.
'Police thanks,' I said. Now was no time to forget my manners. The call was transferred again and a third voice appeared.
'Police, what's your emergency?'
'Hi, I'm witnessing an assault,' I said.
'Where are you at the moment?'
'I'm looking down on the street in front of the casino. There's two youths attacking a taxi driver.'
'What do they look like?'
'Well they're far away... They're tall, they're wearing jeans and t-shirts, one yellow and one pink, they're - what's that? Oh, I'm with two other guys, they say the attackers are Polynesian.'
'What's the condition of the taxi driver?'
'I can't tell. He's hidden.'
'What are the youths yelling?'
'Nothing anymore. They just walked off down a path next to the casino.'
'Can you speak to the taxi driver?'
'Ah man, he just drove off.'
'Okay, did you actually witness this assault?'
'Yeah!' I said, a little offended. I was trying to help and he was questioning my credibility. First Die Hard and now this... It's a wonder anyone gets saved at all.

As I talked to the man on the phone, I watched three police cars screech to a halt in the spot where the taxi had just been. They must have dispatched the cars silently while I detailed the situation. Maybe they had triangulated my location using my phone. Maybe the taxi driver had tripped an alarm. Either way, I let the man on the phone know that the cops had arrived.
'Okay can you make yourself known to the police on the scene. Describe everything you can to them.'
'Will do, have a good night,' I said.
*click!*

I turned to Nick and Jeff.
'They want us to make ourselves known to police,' I said.
'Their faces dropped and they both murmured something that sounded more or less like "Nah, the police have it now".
"What?" I thought incredulously. "This is your chance to do your civic duty! How could you just not be bothered?"
As I turned to head down there by myself, I realised that these two men seemed like the kind of people who could easily have more than just cigarettes on them.They might just have been worried they'd be caught. Or they just might not have cared. Either way the cops were already leaving, so I didn't have time to work it out.

I jogged downstairs and chase after the last car that I'd seen going down that same pathway as the youths. It disappeared around the corner and I thought I'd missed my chance. But a few seconds later I saw headlights reappear and a car turning to come back the other way. Since it was so dark and the headlights were shining right on me, I couldn't tell if this car was the same car as the one that had disappeared. I stepped out of its path and waited until it got close enough to see the familiar blue-and-white checkered patter of a police car. Then I waved it down. I realised how suspicious it must look - a young man on his own in a dark alley at 5am, wearing a leather jacket and walking right in front of a police car. And the harsh demeanour of the very tall, muscly, bald-headed cop that greeted me from the passenger seat confirmed it. I addressed it by putting on one of my cutest smiles.

'Hello sir, I was the guy who placed the call to 000,' I said.
'Did you witness the assault?' the cop asked, his demeanour softening just a bit.
'Yeah I did.'
'Okay, if you just want to wait for us in the lobby of the casino there, we'll finish sweeping the area, then we'll come and get a statement from you.'
I followed the officer's instructions, passing through a revolving door to arrive in a nicely-lit marble room with a desk on the far end and a water-feature on the wall to my left. I took a seat on the low retaining wall that enclosed the water feature and busied myself on my phone.

A few minutes passed and the revolving door came to life.my head snapped up from my The Simpsons Tapped Out game and I expected to see Baldie enter the room. Instead, a scruffy homeless man came in and walked in my direction. I could smell him as soon as he came through the door.
'Hello, do you have any money?' he asked in a gravelly voice. I gave him a few coins from my wallet, for which he thanked me. Then he walked to a spot further along the wall, reached into his pocket, pulled out a handful of cigarette butts and placed them in a pile on the wall, sitting down next to them. He stuck his hand in the water and started fishing around.
'Ah fuck, they've already cleaned out the coins,' he lamented. And I can't go and ask them for money because they banned me from this place for life.'
'Oh, that's a shame,' I replied flatly.
'Oh hang on,' said the man.I think that's an earring! I could take that, right?' he asked. It's not stealing...'
'I don't know mate,' I replied. I genuinely didn't know the answer. The casino could very well consider anything thrown in their fountain to be their property, but I didn't like the idea of telling a homeless man not to claim discarded goods.
'I want your opinion,' he pressed. 'You don't think it's stealing, right?'
'Honestly mate, I don't own the fountain so I don't know.
'But I want YOUR opinion!'
Fine, if that's what you really want...
'Alright, if it were my fountain, I'd probably consider it stealing,' I said. I didn't bother explaining that I probably wouldn't care if he stole a used earring from me. I just wanted to get him off my back.
'Yeah, that's fair enough,' the man replied. 'Have a good night.' He turned and walked back out the door and I was left feeling pretty bad about myself.

A few more minutes passed and the revolving door once again came to life. This time a cop did walk through. Not the same security guard-type with the high-vis vest as before, but rather someone more my size, wearing the standard navy blue uniform and a warm, friendly grin. He saw me looking and I stood up to greet him.
'G'day,' I said.
'Hello,' he replied.
I kept looking at him and he seemed like he could tell he was missing something.
'Are you here for me?' I offered. The look on his face turned to confusion.
'I don't think so, why are you here?'
'I witnessed an assault and another cop asked me to wait here so he could get a statement from me.'
'Oh! Well if I'm here, I may as well get your statement,' he said. He took out a notepad and pen and started asking a set of detailed questions. Things like did the attackers have any distinguishing marks, what type of shoes were they wearing, hair colour, eye colour etc. I tried to help as much as I could, but like I mentioned, my vantage point hadn't been that great. The officer was just at the end of his questions and was taking down my phone number for future statements, when we faintly heard what could have been a woman's hysterical wailing. The officer looked up with wide eyes.
'Did you hear that?' he asked.
'Yeah I think so...' I said. The screaming returned, but much louder and closer. We both sprung into action.

The cop put one hand on his gun, turned and bolted back out the revolving door. I followed closely behind him. I'm not sure why - what could I have done to help the situation, thrown my shoe at it? But I guess I didn't feel right just hanging back when there was trouble going down. If there was anything I could contribute, I would.

As it turned out, the screaming came from a destitute woman who was being arrested. All the cops in the area had reconvened in front of the casino and one of them was placing the screaming woman in the back of a paddy wagon. The officer who had been speaking to me relaxed and chuckled as he turned back to me.
'It looks like they've got it under control. Is there anything else about the assault you can recall?'
'No, that's it.'
'Well thanks for your help. We'll call you again tomorrow if we need any more information.'

I walked off back to my hostel and passed the thug cop with whom I originally spoke. I told him someone else had been by to take my statement.
'Yeah sorry. We got busy,' he replied uncaringly.
Right then. Appreciate the help.
I stumbled the 500m back and entered my room as quietly as possible. Then I fell asleep before my head even hit the pillow.

12 comments:

  1. Never dull.
    Love that the scruffy gentleman in the casino was prepared to take your word for it that taking the earring was theft. Was he homeless? Or just filthy?

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    1. I assumed he was homeless. Now I'm in doubt :P

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  2. That must have been a little scary. They probably never caught the guys, but good for you for trying to do the right thing! My Grandma always said, "Nothing good ever happens after Midnight!"

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    1. Hahaha we have that saying too, but we've pushed it back to 2am ;)

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  3. At least you tried to do the right thing, but kind of depressing the response you experienced. Great story, however.

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    1. The cop in the casino lobby was great, I loved him. I understand the abruptness of the people on the phone - when it's a matter of life and death, there's no time for pleasantries. It was just that thug cop I had a problem with.

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  4. Ok reading this it is any wonder that people usually can't be bothered to speak to the cops when at times the cops are right assholes and act like they can't give a rats ass

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    1. To be fair, it could have just been that one guy. The cop who greeted me in the lobby was fantastic.

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  5. What a night you had-seeing someone being beaten up, being transferred on the phone 3 times, burly cops, smelly man and a screaming woman. I have witnessed 3 different car accidents and in almost all cases, most people did not want to get involved. They took off or lied that they saw nothing. 2 people even lied and told the cops that the young guy was not going fast through a red light because they didn't want to get him in trouble! I had no such problem since the brat was in the wrong and you could tell from the skid marks that he was speeding plus the van he hit, injuring the man inside, had to pay for the kid's horrible driving. I wonder about people

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    1. Wow, that's incredible! I find that mentality hard to understand. I was lucky enough the first time I was involved in a collision that as soon as I got out of the car, a bystander said "I'll be a witness if you need one." Although I was a very new driver at the time and wasn't sure how that could help :P

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  6. Doing the right thing is sometimes difficult...inspite of what all our moms told us, ha ha.

    It's my end of the year post to all the bloggers I know and love, and of course - you're always on that list! Thanks for your hard work, great posts, and bloggy friendship. Wishing you all the best in 2016 from "the Flipside."

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Cherdo, I appreciate your continued support :) Wishing you well from across the Pacific.

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