A few weeks ago, I was downtown on a Saturday afternoon. It was cold. It was 28 degrees F cold (that's cold, for here). I was wearing many layers, and also a warm hat and mittens. I walked downtown, so my car was far away and the wind blew hard across the bridge.
I stopped at re1 to see if they had any good snow pants (later purchased at a cheaper store), and on the way home, I passed a man lying on the sidewalk. He was wearing a white t-shirt, khakis, and an unzipped soft-shell jacket. His shoes were off, exposing his white cotton socks. He had his hands tucked under his arms, and he was rocking and moaning.
There was a police car parked next to him, with an officer inside looking at his phone.
Never one to leave well enough alone, I went over to the man lying on the ground and started talking to him. "Are you okay?" I asked. He moaned louder.
"Do you need a blanket?" I asked. After some time, he and I ascertained that he did, indeed, need a blanket. I wasn't sure where we could get a blanket (or several blankets, given the temperature) short of going back to re1 and getting a sleeping bag, which would be beyond my financial capabilities at this point, but I knew that there was a drugstore not far away, and I figured we could go there and buy a fleece throw or two. I also figured that getting him moving was a good idea.
Very slowly, with a great deal of moaning, we got his shoes on his feet. Even more slowly, with even more moaning, he finally stood up.
As soon as he stood up, the police officer, who was very young, shockingly young, came over, said, "Do you still want to go to the warming center?," patted him down, and put him in the back seat of the police car.
Hey. HEY. This was my victory. I was helping this guy. I got him to stand up. I was annoyed that the police officer just snatched my opportunity to help someone away from me. I was practically dancing around in frustration.
"Where are you taking him?" I asked the officer. "Which warming center?"
He told me and then said, "We've been getting calls about him for a while. He'll die out here overnight."
"Are you going to take his stuff?" I asked. "Can I talk to him?"
The man was calling frantically from the back seat of the police car. "Whyyyy? Whyyyyyy?"
The officer rolled the window down so I could talk to the man while the officer gathered his things in a garbage bag and put them in the trunk.
"He's just taking you somewhere warm," I tried to assure the man.
"Why do I have to go?" he moaned.
"It's too cold out here," I said. "It's not safe to be out when it's so cold."
"Whyyyyy," he said. "Why do I have to go?"
And then they left, and I don't know what happened next. I guess we don't always know what happens next to the people we meet, and I don't know if that man stayed in a warm place for the night or if he ended up back on the street that night or the next very cold night. I hope he's okay.