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He dreamt of her, and now she was naked in his bed.

Like Will Rogers, I mostly knew what I read in the papers.

I used Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan to get to the Brooklyn Bridge, and it was there on Chambers that she passed out in her seat. The silence started abruptly, and I stopped by the curb to check out her condition. She didn't respond to my voice, so I got out and opened the back door.

I had to make a decision - the nearest emergency room was at Beekman-Downtown Hospital a few blocks away. I considered whether to take her there. It appeared to me that she was asleep but breathing normally. That was all my amateur medical knowledge could offer me to make an opinion. I decided to continue the trip and cross the bridge.

There are some memories of doing that job that make me cringe, usually involving something that somebody said or did that bothered my thin-skinned self. In that case on Chambers Street, something more serious was at stake; for a few minutes this woman's life was in my hands.

If I had been older and more experienced in life I might have handled it differently. I'm not going to justify my actions of nearly forty years ago. All I can say is that job of driving a cab, or perhaps the way I perceived it, demanded a lot of responsibility but seemed to offer no authority. I wondered what how she would react if she woke up by the emergency room door and didn't believe she belonged there. "There's nothing wrong with me, why did you bring me here?" I thought about what my dispatchers would say if I used up a chunk of my shift doing this.

Studies have shown that the "bystander effect," the supposed indifference of city dwellers to the plight of their fellow citizens, is lessened when there is only a single individual observing. And I was that single individual. I must have hoped or prayed that I made the right call and then I drove on.

On the Brooklyn side she started to recover and she asked me to stop on one of the main Heights streets, probably Montague. She seemed to be looking for a store to buy something. I was stopped at a corner and there, standing in a doorway, was a police officer. Sometimes there really is one when you need one. My passenger was fumbling with her purse and talking to herself.

I got out and approached the patrolman, one of the younger members of the force. He looked in at her and said, "She's on drugs all right." Then, "There's nothing I can do. Take her to a hospital if you want to."

I thought, There's nothing you can do? What exactly is it that you do do then? I understood the pressures cops are under, but I have seen them micromanage the most trivial things and at other times blatantly ignore the most provocatively crazy situations. Anyway, at this point in the city's history, with cutbacks and layoffs, the morale of the NYPD was at a low point. I'm taking a guess that that nowadays cops like to report these little interventions in their daily logs because it helps their careers in a way that may not have been true back then.

When I got back in the car she seemed to have recovered enough to be lucid. Instead of being manic she was calm but appeared tired and woozy from coming down from her high. I remember it was dusk when we reached her destination a few blocks south of Montague. She used up a few more minutes going through some photographs she had in her purse and then she paid her fare and left.

She said nothing to me indicating there was anything unusual about the trip, that she had been on the edge or actually into an overdose, or that I had anything to do with the outcome of her misadventure. Maybe she eventually forgot about it or perhaps she used it eventually as an anecdote at an N.A. meeting. But it was one of those incidents from the job I have remembered.

*******

Maybe I was more unequivocally a savior on another night in 1979.

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