LidoLadies to the rescueBy
I was coming home the other evening from the Lido on the #1 vaporetto.
Sound simple? Not then, or any other evening in the summer. Because it was in that period — late afternoon/early evening — when every sort of human in every sort of combination leaves the beach and, like me, heads hearth-ward. Strollers! Mothers! Dogs! Coolers and bags! Kids of all species! Old people scattered along the lower strata, babies strewn along the upper layers of a mass of people which I’m pretty sure exceeds the posted maximum passenger number, or tonnage. Whichever is higher.
Before the ACTV added extra lines and runs, this experience was like the fall of Saigon. Now it’s only like being in a one-ring circus that has been turned upside down and had a big graduated compression stocking pulled over it.
As usual, I headed for a corner near the exit on the shoreward side and held still. As the people swarmed aboard, I noticed a small group of ladies of the proverbial Certain Age. I think there were four of them. They were all well-dressed in a sporty sort of way, and their low-key way of talking didn’t give any hint as to where they might be headed. At that time of day, women of a C.A. are usually detailed to haul home their hot, over-tired grandchildren.
About halfway between the Lido and the first stop, Sant’ Elena, I suddenly realized that the girl next to me had given way in a dead faint. She didn’t fall — she seemed to have spread herself gently along the floor parallel to the gate. But there she was, long, broad and very still.
But I was slow to catch on. The corps of LidoLadies had already seen everything, and gone into action. One of them held the girl’s legs up in the air; one of them patted her cheeks; one of them pulled out a small, cold bottle of water and held it against her face; one of them somehow got a cookie into her mouth (I saw the jaws working, so that was good). The girl came to just as one of them was asking the mob at large if anybody had a piece of candy. A young mother managed to find a non-sugarfree gumdrop, fruit flavor.
By the time we pulled up at Sant’ Elena, the girl was on her feet, smiling, extending her thanks, requesting pardon, emptying a square packet of sugar into her mouth, and so forth. She got off and went home.
I’ll tell you what: It’s not the victim that left an impression on me. It’s the astounding Lafayette Escadrille of middle-aged women (dames whose greatest concern normally appears whether to drink their spritz with Aperol or Campari) who Saved the Day. I’m guessing they weren’t heading for the weekly mah-jongg game after all, but a meeting of the Sodality of the Retired Emergency Volunteers of Saint Euphrosyne of Polotsk.
Some people — and I would have been one of them — might have thought of calling an ambulance, or a doctor-in-the-house, or the firemen, or the Red Cross. Not anymore. I’m seriously considering tacking a little card to my chest that says “In case of emergency, call those four Ladies from the Lido and just stand back.”