I need somebody
(Help!) Not just anybody
(Help!) You know I need someone
“Is that close enough?”
Behind me, over my right shoulder, someone is being maneuvered into a spot for the table. I don’t look, continue drinking my late breakfast coffee, scrolling through the article about the Jay’s loss in Tampa on Thursday.
“Yes, thank you. Could you put the brakes on?”
“Of course. Will you be needing anything else?” asked the young woman.
“No. Thanks again.” His voice rising above the crackle of the unravelling sandwich wrap.
The hospital atrium is a hub of care workers, patients and relatives finding solace in some refreshments and a respite from mask wearing. An indulgent apple fritter and another medium dark roast has prolonged my stay. One more hour before Olga is out of the operating room and then another hour and a half for recovery before I can venture back to the day surgery reception on the third floor.
The bats were quieted again by a series of relievers.. THUD! I whip my head around to catch the plastic Coke bottle rolling away on the floor.
“Oh man. Ugh.”
Smartphone still in hand, I shove back my seat, move to the right of the wheelchair and bend down to return the drink to the table.
“I have some extra napkins to wipe up the floor.”
“Is there a big mess? My eyesight is poor and cannot see beyond what is close in front of me.”
“No, not a lot. The lid helped.”
“Thank you. Nice to meet you. My name is Gerald. And yours?”
“Henry. Nice to meet you as well.” I sit back in my seat, sneaking a glance at Gerald’s bandaged leg with a metal prosthetic shin and ceramic foot.
With the last of the highlight videos and the final gulp of tepid coffee, I stand up to begin a slow stroll and think to ask Gerald if all is okay.
“I need to find the bank machine. There is one just around the corner of the pharmacy, over there to the right. Would you be able to push me to it?”
“Not a problem. Brakes off?” and away we go. Around the staircase, dodging the parade of people traversing the floor, Gerald directs me to the ATM machines, asking for the one on the left because the other had accepted his card earlier but did not dispense any money. I inch him up until the foot petals touch the wall. “All good?”
Hunched over, Gerald coddles a tattered money purse, opens it and asks “Do you mind looking in there for my bank cards? There is a green one for the TD and a blue one for RBC. Yes, that one; and that one. Good. Thanks. Can you put in the TD card into the machine for me? I can’t see very well and I need to get some money for groceries. I only do this about once a month. I need six hundred dollars. I will tell you the pin.”
I hesitate. Am I hearing this correctly? He wants me to use his bank cards to withdraw cash? Is he trusting me to not abscond with any of the money? Can I trust him to not falsely report a crime? Is his eyesight that poor? Is this a ruse? Secret camera somewhere?
Gerald looks up; I cannot say no, so I insert the card and begin reading out the prompts.
Pin? He rattles off the four digit number.
It only allows for a maximum of $400? You will need to cancel and do it twice – one for $400 and the next for $200.
What is your pin again? And we repeat the procedure.
Eventually the machine spits out a stack of twenties which I extract from the dispenser, unsuccessfully attempting to place the bills in Gerald’s hands before he suggests putting the money directly into the pouch along with the card.
Now you want $360 from the RBC account? Yes.
Pin? He repeats the exact same numbers.
Another transfer, before confirming there is a wad of bills adding up to $960, the amounts from each bank separated by the respective cards. He stuffs the closed money purse into his satchel without checking, without question.
I wheel Gerald to the volunteer desk as he thanks me for the time. Wandering back to Tim Horton’s, I am half expecting to be apprehended by security or police in the foyer for stealing money from a blind and lame victim. The opportunity was there. No one was paying attention.
Yet Gerald, in a position of vulnerability, put his faith in someone he did not know, could barely recognize, and only just befriended in a chance encounter.
And his faith was rewarded.