I left home around 3:00 PM and headed toward work. It was a beautiful day – the sky really was blue, the clouds were puffy, the humidity low. The top was down and I was enjoying the road.
A few minutes from my house, driving down a winding, hilly, narrow road (which now gets a whole lot more traffic than it was ever designed for) I saw a man standing at the edge of the road. He wore a plastic poncho type raincoat and carried a small trash bag half filed with golf balls. In the same hand he held a metal rod.
I’d later see it was a file. When I first saw it I thought it might be a knife.
The man looked to be in his 70s, He wore a mustache, but was otherwise clean shaven. He didn’t seem to realize where he was standing, on the road’s shoulder, was a dangerous spot.
As I approached, he held up his hands as if to ask for assistance.
I’m sure I shouldn’t have done what I did – especially with the vulnerability of having my top down – but I slowed to listen to him and then stopped. His words made sense, but when put together I wasn’t sure what he was getting at.
I pulled my car into a driveway across the street and got out. The man came over and continued to talk. As far as I could see, he was lost. He didn’t know where he was nor where he was going. I assume he didn’t know how he got there either.
I made the decision not to ask anything that might frustrate him, because I could see he was confused… and probably becoming more confused by his own confusion. Something was wrong and he could sense it, but he couldn’t really ask the right questions to flesh out his own problem.
The strangest part is, most of my conversation with him was fine. If he wasn’t lost and wandering, there would be no way to see or know something was wrong. Yet, it was obvious, as we spoke, something was terribly wrong.
I picked up my cellphone and called the police. This was more than I could handle.
It didn’t take five minutes before a patrol car pulled up. I knew the officer and told him what had gone on. He asked the man to get in the car so he could be taken home.
I continued my trip to work.
Later this afternoon, Helaine asked me to call the police department to find out how this ended. The dispatcher looked through his notes and said everything was now fine. And then he offered up how it sounded like Alzheimer’s to him.
So often we have stories on the air about people ‘wandering off.’ It never really made much sense to me. How does an adult just wander off? Now I have a better understanding.
In a way it is ironic to think the only person not worrying about what was going on was probably this man at the edge of the road with a bag of golf balls and a file.