Do you ever wonder if you did the right thing?
I woke up in Memphis at a Hilton this morning. I had to catch a flight back to Iowa. The hotel employees told me that my best bet for getting a ride to the airport was to contact a guy called Mr. Jay—since Uber and Lyft have stopped operating in Memphis (and no, I don’t know why—everyone gave me a difference reason).
I called Mr. Jay last night and he said he’d pick me up at 7:30. I got a text at 7:15. He was waiting for me downstairs.
When I got to the vehicle, Mr. Jay was talking to an older gentleman. I couldn’t hear the conversation, but when Mr. Jay got in the car he sighed.
“Dude ain’t got a chance in making it there,” he said. He explained that this guy was looking for the Marriott, but this was the Hilton. He had been trying to give him directions to get to the right hotel.
I’m not sure of the details of the conversation, but Mr. Jay was concerned about the guy. He seemed confused. His questions didn’t make sense. He couldn’t seem to process the directions. The man also looked a bit disheveled and seemed anxious.
As Mr. Jay tried to pull out the hotel, the older man’s car was blocking the way. He was trying to turn around, we thought, but seemed unable to judge if he had the space to do it. Other people were getting frustrated because they were stuck behind him—but scared he’d hit them if they tried to go around.
Finally we got out of the parking lot, and I looked out the back window of the SUV to see the guy driving slowly, swerving, and struggling to change lanes.
To be clear, I don’t know if he had dementia. I don’t know if he’s taking a medication that makes him confused. I don’t know this man’s situation or condition, but when Mr. Jay said he shouldn’t be driving…I agreed.
Mr. Jay turned out to be a good guy. He slowed down and stayed ahead of the man—in an attempt to lead him to the Marriott. I looked out the back window and cringed when he nearly swerved into other cars on the highway. He was driving about 30 miles per hour on a highway. We slowed to his pace to see if we could guide him to the Marriott. A few cars honked at him or us–or maybe both.
At one point, I heard Mr. Jay say under his breath: “Come on, buddy. You can do it.”
I turned around and tried to wave and point when we got close. Mr. Jay turned on his blinker to tell this guy where to turn.
It wasn’t pretty, and I think he hit a curb, but the older guy did end up in the Marriott parking lot.
Mr. Jay said “He’s in!” and I clapped. For a moment, I felt a sense of accomplishment. And an attachment to my teammate Mr. Jay who I had only known for 10 minutes.
At least we got him to the Marriott.
But, what should we have done? What should I have done?
If he were my grandpa, what would I have wanted to someone to do?
Should we have called the police and given them his license plate number? Perhaps at some point we could have intervened to have a conversation with him and asked if there was someone he could call for assistance. Should we have followed him into the Marriott parking lot?
Of course, I did have a flight to catch. And Mr. Jay was getting paid to deliver me to the Memphis airport.
As a gerontologist, I feel a sense of responsibility to intervene in situations if I see older people struggling. But sometimes I don’t know the right thing to do. Or I don’t recognize the need for action in a situation until it’s over.
Many times, like today, I look back and wonder if my I could have done…more.
I gave Mr. Jay a $20 tip because he seemed like a good human. Then I moved on with my day.