Wednesday, April 17, 2013

(Almost) Normal

I was working at the mall Customer Service desk today when one of the salespeople ran out from the store across the corridor and yelled at me to call Security; someone was having a heart attack in the back of the store.

I hurried to the phone as quickly as I could and made the call. Somehow they'd already heard about it, and said an officer was on the way. Before the officer could arrive, someone ran past me and got the defibrillator that hangs on the wall a few stores down so they could do CPR.  One minute later the security officer arrived carrying a large first aid bag, followed shortly by one of his co-workers and a supervisor.  A pair of police officers trotted up to the site.  Five minutes later the EMSs showed up pushing a stretcher.  Each of them disappeared into the bowels of the store.

Two sales associates stood outside by the store's door talking to each other with worried looks on their faces.  Other than that, there was no sign of anything out of the ordinary happening.  Shoppers strolled by, oblivious to the drama that was taking place inside the store.   It reminded me of the poem Musee des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden (which refers to Pieter Breughel's painting The Fall of Icarus).  In the poem people go about their business, unaware that a boy was falling out of the sky.

I observed the excitement for several minutes, then the phone rang and someone stopped at the desk with a question. The EMS left with the patient, and then the rest of the responders slowly ambled out, looking like they were ready to resume their normal business.

Pieter Brueghel, The Fall of Icarus

Musee des Beaux Arts (W. H. Auden)

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Five years ago today: New Thing #97--The Color Purple


  1. the same thing happened at an auction a few months ago!

    Interesting painting...I want to see a large to google!

    1. I guess if you spend enough time in public places you're going to see your share of medical emergencies.

  2. I wonder if the patient is ok. Thanks for providing the poem and art, very educational today Kathy, and interesting. Auden must have observed what you observed.

    1. I wonder, too. I asked one of the security guards later in the day, but he didn't know.

      When I ran my tutoring center the poem (along with the painting) was one of the lessons in the Literature class many of the students had to take. I bet I helped more than a dozen of them analyze it over a couple of years!

  3. Such a strange feeling to be a witness to an event that will change the lives of others. Gives one pause, time to think about the fact tha we are all mere mortals!

  4. OH dear...what a day you had! It sounds as if LOTS of people responded and QUICKLY. I am so glad to hear that. I hope the person that was ill is okay.

    The painting is a good one and and I do not think I have ever seen before...I am going to research it a bit deeper. Food for thought.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. When I read the poem in a Literature book several years ago it was new to me, but poetry isn't one of my strengths and I figured I was the only one who didn't know it. I guess I was wrong :-)

  5. Kathy this is the first time I'm reading this poem as well, I'm not big on poetry and would much rather read a book then go through poems and dissect the meaning.

    That's awesome there was such a quick response, hopefully the individual is alright.

    1. I'm with you with the poetry-analyzing, unless I have a Study Guide to help me :-)