Real Life Summer Circus  
by: Sonia Kumar (sonia@indolink.com)

Last night, as I drove home humming to tunes from “Devdas”, I was treated to a rather peculiar sight. I was crossing a freeway overpass to get to my neighborhood when I saw a solitary police officer talking to a man sitting on …the other side of the fence?!

Luckily I was driving slowly and there were no other cars on the overpass, so my abrupt stop concurrent with the double-take my head made didn’t hurt anyone. Sure enough, there was a man sitting on the other side of the barbed wire barrier that was a small deterrent to keep people from falling over the other side and into the freeway.

Once I finally made it off the overpass and turned onto the street running parallel to the freeway, I was treated to an even more peculiar sight. The lack of cars on the overpass was explained when I saw that a police car had been placed in the middle of traffic to prevent one direction of traffic from entering the overpass. Emergency vehicles were pulled up at different points, a paramedic vehicle was setting up like a mini disaster relief operation. Several police cars had closed down the portion of the freeway directly below the man. I could now see that the man was sitting on the freeway sign right above traffic. A fire truck was parked close to the man, and a long extension was being carefully placed near him. Several paramedics, firemen, and police men stood beneath the man. Perhaps they were going to try and catch him.

On both sides of the freeway, onlookers had gathered. Several were on cell phones relating the incident to mothers, boyfriends, the local papers, etc., etc. The employees of local businesses came out still wearing their uniforms to watch. If any of their employers questioned them afterwards, they can always say they were advertising. I for one had no idea there was a Best Buy, a Domino’s, and a Whole Foods, so close to my house until I saw the uniforms last night. Some people of the spectators were people who had come to shop in the adjacent plaza and found the possibility of jumper more interesting. Others were commuters like me, only they actually stopped, parked their cars, got out and crowded at the fence to see what would happen next. I thought I saw a photographer for a local newspaper snapping photos from a tripod before I realized that it was actually my photo hobbyist neighbor. A couple of parents had seated their children around their shoulders. You know, so the children could have a better view of a man possibly falling to his death.

Actually, the overpass the man was seated on was not very high up. I don’t even know that he was there to jump. He probably just thought he could get a good breeze on a hot day from that location and didn’t realize that it would be really messy if he happened to fall off. Granted, mortal danger was more likely before they closed the freeway off and saved him from being hit by a car, but afterwards, his most serious injury would have been a broken bone from hitting the pavement (if the emergency people failed to catch him).

But still, I found it odd that so many people turned out to watch. As soon as I realized what was happening, I hurried home and out of the area. If someone was going to do something crazy, I didn’t want to stick around to watch. But I could not forget the sight of all those people gathered around, watching intently when real life became a circus.

In the morning, my landlord told me that the man had eventually been talked down and arrested. Without injury.