The idea that “May you lead an interesting life” is a “Chinese curse” is probably apocryphal, but one can see the relevance of the connection between “interesting” and “curse.” Our weekend in Baton Rouge, although enjoyable and successful, was…interesting.
We got away Thursday afternoon around 1 p.m. after settling a GPS rivalry in favor of the directions given by Daniel’s phone, which wanted to lead us southward on state & U.S. highways as opposed to my car’s GPS which was determined to lead us north to Atlanta to catch I-85. Even taking into account the higher speed limits on the interstate, that seemed silly. Off we went to the south. No sooner had we crossed the state line into Alabama than we got into an accident: rear-ended, fortunately at very low speed, by a semi. Argh! Dealing with that ate up at least an hour, but at least the car was drivable and no one was hurt. After calling my insurance company, calling the other guy’s insurance company, and calling my parents (so my mom wouldn’t worry when I mentioned the accident on Facebook), we went on our way and finally got to Baton Rouge around 10 p.m.
Friday afternoon around 1:00 we danced our first heat, Adult Silver Rhythm, and Senior I Silver Rhythm immediately after that. It was nice, after the long and stressful drive, not to have to get up and dance the first heats of the day. It was also nice to start with Rhythm instead of Smooth. In most cases, we end up dancing Smooth for our first heat of the day. It’s hard to dance a slow waltz with all that adrenaline in your system but for the cha-cha, the extra energy helps! Surprisingly, we came 3rd out of 6 in the Adult event but 6th out of 8 in Senior I. Usually it’s the other way around because the younger competitors in the Adult category (ages 18-34) manage to out-dance us. In any case I am going to have to stop saying that I don’t like the first heat of the day, because we almost always get a good result out of it, no matter what the event is. Maybe the nerves make us extra sharp. As it turned out later, we’d need to be sharp.
After a late lunch we came back to dance 2 Smooth events. This time, the Senior I event was first and it was big enough to be a semifinal: everyone dances once and the judges call back 6 couples out of the original group to dance again for first through sixth place. But before we even got that far, we had more “interesting” events to witness. We were waiting for our heat to come up; a Junior or Pre-Teen event was on the floor. I had gone to the dressing room for something and just as I came back across the ballroom, the announcer was saying “Is there a doctor in the house?” I thought he was making a joke but as I approached our table I saw an older man nearby slumped over, leaning on his partner. Everyone was starting to look at him and several people got up to offer help even as the music was still playing and the kids were still dancing. I assumed he was overheated or maybe hypoglycemic and would be revived with some cold towels and Gatorade or something, but then one of the helpers (I found out later he was an ER doctor) looked around and said, “911!” Daniel had gone over closer to the man to see if he could help and looked back at me; I waved my phone and said “I’ve got it.” (As it turned out, another woman was calling in at the same time but that seemed to be okay with the dispatcher, who went on getting information from me.)
The music was still playing as I was waiting for my phone to connect and the helpers were getting the man out of his chair and onto the floor, and starting CPR, so I went into the hall to make sure I’d be able to hear. The first question the dispatcher asked was the location of the emergency. Somehow, my brain, which rarely remembers anything to do with directions, remembered not only the name of the hotel but the street it’s on. Where were we in the hotel, he asked. “It’s a ballroom competition,” I said. “You can’t miss it.” I wasn’t sure of the answers to most of the rest of his questions but I went back into the ballroom and just narrated everything that was going on: They’re giving him CPR. Someone’s gone to look for a defibrillator. Hang on, they’re defibrillating him now. I think he’s breathing again. Yes, he’s breathing. Oh, we have a cardiologist here. After that they let me hang up and seemingly 3 seconds later, the EMTs rushed in. By that time, the man (we found out later that his name was Raymond) was starting to move a little and respond to questions. The EMTs got an oxygen mask and IV on him, then ultimately took him out on a stretcher. Everyone stood and clapped for him as they wheeled him out, like they do for football players. Daniel was right next to him the entire time; he had done CPR before (and helped save a man’s life) and was ready to do it again, but there were so many people helping that even a couple of the doctors that were present had nothing to do.
It was an extraordinary experience. While it was all happening, I was terrified, simultaneously wanting to do something and being afraid of making a mistake. I didn’t look at the man’s face but I kept looking at his partner, who was absolutely paralyzed with fear. I don’t know how I’d have felt–how any of us would have felt–if he had died. I wanted to cry because I was afraid and then I wanted to cry because it was all strangely beautiful, in the end. As it turned out, the whole incident was an illustration of humans’ capacity to be awesome: not just good and generous but quick-thinking, prepared, decisive, clear-headed, and smart. I don’t mean to self-aggrandize at all when I say that ballroom dancers are excellent people in general, but if you ever wondered about our moral fiber, stop wondering.
When the dancing resumed (surprisingly soon after Raymond made his exit), we got eliminated in the semifinal of Senior I Silver Smooth and then came 5th of 8 in Adult Silver Smooth. We felt we’d danced pretty well, so the day ended on a disappointing note. Crummy placements are a minor drag but not getting a recall somehow feels worse. If anything, we were rather dreading the Open American 6-Dance on tap for Saturday: a field of 17 would mean surviving 2 cuts to dance in the final, and we didn’t hold out much hope. Of course, having seen a man die and be brought back to life* earlier that day, our placements seemed a bit less important than they might otherwise have, as did the state of my back bumper. Perspective is a beautiful thing.
…But recalls are beautiful too.
*Daniel later said On l’a reanimé, “we reanimated him.” I misheard him and understood On l’a reallumé, “we turned him back on,” which is a lot funnier and, frankly, not inaccurate.