Yesterday, I wrote here just before going out for a run with a friend of mine who's visiting from out of town. The two of us set off around 11am, and she told me she was a slow runner, and wanted to run alone with her walkman, would meet me back at my place. So, I pointed out the directions as we ran to the park but forgot the most crucial reminder before we separated - giving her a landmark INSIDE the park for where to exit. Recalling this too late, at the end of the run, I waited for her, then ran back in the other direction to see if I could intercept her. To no avail. Where was she? I wondered, Why couldn't I see her behind me? Maybe she hadn't finished the loop, had doubled back and was already at my place, waiting for me?
I went home - she wasn't there. I did sit-ups. I took a shower. My friend: still not there. Now, as I looked at the clock and realized it was well after noon, I got worried: I dumped out her bag to see what she had with her: no money, no ID, no cell phone - BUT she had her car keys. I quickly dressed and headed out on my bike to look for her. Visions of my friend lying on the path with her leg broken, or mauled by dogs, dragged off the path and lying dead under a tree, filled my mind. I realized too late into my loop around the park that this was a ridiculous strategy. If she'd been injured, she'd be taken to the hospital by some good samaritan or cop. After a quick circle around the area between the park and my house (where I imagined I might find her wandering the streets lost) I went home. I went to look and see if she'd gone to sit in her car to warm up (not there). I started calling the hospitals. Not there either. Finally, accepting the fact that she wasn't going to just walk in the door at any minute, and with the prevailing vision in my mind that she was wandering lost somewhere in Brooklyn with no phone, no money and no real knowledge of the area, I called the police. They came over to the house and I showed them pictures but they said they couldn't do anything to help me since she was an adult and not disabled. There was no way to "file a missing persons report" on an adult who had disappared. The officers were pretty sympathetic toward me and they offered to drive around the neighborhood with me in the back of the car, looking for her. Now, anyone who knows me will know how weird I felt about this, but I did it. What else was I going to do, ride around on my bike looking for her? Call her parents to see if she'd contacted them?
So, I got in the car, and away we went. One of the cops had been riding his own bike around the park for hours that morning and said that the park police hadn't reported any ambulances. That was reassuring. They put out her description to other cops in the area. At one point, the driver asked me, "isn't this better than a bike?" and I thought, I dunno, I did feel somehow that we were doing things more efficiently than I would have, and the other said in unmistakeable bikerese, "nothing's better than a bike." Aha, a kindred spirit, I thought, and then I almost asked the cop, "so do you support critical mass?" - but wouldn't that have been provocative though? I wanted to keep them on my side; finding my lost friend, who was stumbling around in the cold with just running pants and a sweatshirt on, was more important than scoring some point. These guys were helping me find my friend and they could easily not have done so. In fact, if I and my friend had been Black, it's very likely that I would not have gotten this kind of "officer friendly" treatment. It was already the case that they were asking me if my friend could have gone off with some guy she met or just "gone shopping" or walking around.
No, no, no, I insisted. She didn't have money, she wasn't dressed warmly, she wouldn't go meet some guy - though I did think, "what if some nice family took her inside to warm up, gave her some tea or cocoa and she fell asleep on their couch? " How EVER would I find her? They thought this was weird, "your friend would go to a stranger's house and take a nap?" they asked.
We drove all around Windsor Terrace and as we rounded the corner on Bartle-Prtichard Square, to see if she was at the Connecticut Muffin. One of the cops said, "there's the sarge, let's go talk to him." We pulled up next to the other police car and they talked through the open windows about my friend. Now I felt like I was on "Law and Order" or something, and I had a little thrill. Yes, I'm one of the many lefty cop-haters who reads and watches detective fiction. Cognitive Dissonance: simultaneous anxiety about being with the cops and knowing that these guys were really helping me out.
The problem with my mystery reading habit was that I could also imagine several worst-case scenarios: my friend abducted from the running path and murdered in a van. When I floated these horrific scenes by them, the cops reassured me that Prospect Park was really safe and that there were "tons" of people out. Not so reassuringly, they told me about some elderly women from Florida who'd gotten lost for three days when coming home from a bingo game and wound up in Georgia.
We imagined how people might be giving her bad directions. We speculated about her and drove and drove. Finally, after I don't know how many loops around various neighborhoods, they heard something from the radio, "they think they found her: at 5th avenue and 17th street."
Halleluja! The whole thing became immediately clear to me. She had not known whether I lived on 5th street or 5th avenue and had gotten directed in the completely wrong direction. We drove down the slope and there she was: standing with a coffee cup outside a coffeeshop, looking happy that we were there. She had called a cab. She got in the back of the police car and they drove us home as she told us what had been happening for the last two+ hours. So all's well that ends well, as they say.
Her side of the story is a good one...and maybe she'll tell some of it here. Most of what I realized was that no one knew what she was talking about: not the UPS guy, not the mailman, none of the people who could reasonably be expected to know where the hell things were directed her towards me. They all sent her Slopeward, further and further away from my house. What if we hadn't found her? oy. too terrible to think about. We're all ready again to go out today, but we're not getting separated without phones and cash.