Speaking of heroes, how about that pizza delivery guy?..

As something of a follow-up to the comments below, I note what may be the most..interesting..designation of “hero” to have been made- so far- this year. I don’t remember the particulars- where, who, and specifically when- nor will I spend even 30 seconds retrieving that info; it is irrelevant! If you had the TV on during the last few days, you’ve probably heard the story anyway and I do you no service by re-heaping the details onto your already creaking-with-overload memory.

A pizza was delivered to a home way outside of town, in some state, near some medium-sized town. While inside, the deliveryman saw a woman with her hands tied who was mouthing the words “Call 911.” Now, I’m not going to quibble about the likelihood of understanding someone’s mimed plea to call 911; try it, you’ll see the words are not easily seen. And, it would seem to me that the tied up hands and wrists would probably be a sign, adequate unto itself, that something was amiss.

All of this non-verbal information was being passed, by the way, while the client had his back turned to the deliveryman and his victim, WHILE HE WAS SIGNING THE CREDIT CARD SLIP for the pizza! One must ask, if you’re going to be a kidnapper, and if you’re going to feed the victim, wouldn’t it be a good idea to meet the delivery guy outside the house, with cash? That’s not relevant, really, except that it goes to show why the status of “hero” is deserved even less than it may have been deemed to be deserved at first glance. Stick around, it gets even less deserving.

The pizza guy left the house, got in his car, and called 911. That’s no big deal; if you’ve done it, you know what I mean. I’ve called 911 twice; the first time was the day after 9-11-01, 9-12-01, if I must spell it out. It was evening and I was sitting in the backyard. I was home alone when a transformer on the telephone pole behind my house exploded. Being 9-12-01, it crossed my mind- I’ll admit- that the 9100 block of Clemson Drive in Garland, Texas was under attack. The second time I called was when I was trying to help a man stand up who was trying to faint. He wanted to sit down, but we were outside and all I could aim him toward was a riding lawn mower. He had a bowel movement before he was seated and while I was trying to tell the operator the address. As difficult as the circumstances were in both cases, the dialing of the numbers, the placing of the call, was easy.

The pizza guy had none of those extenuating circumstances. He simply called 911. And then he waited for the police to arrive so he could provide- his words- “back-up” ! What, one must ask, might the back-up have been which he could have provided? Good intentions aside- and I’m sure they were good- but what could he have done? What might have been needed to be done? Face it, I say..the guy hung around- as I would, as you would- to see what was going to happen. In fact, the police would have had to forcibly remove me from the scene for me to have left such a scene of interesting potential!   (When I was in college, I delivered pizza for a year; not much that is exciting happens while delivering pizza. An event like this would have been regarded by most of us drivers at the time as a gift from an almighty and loving God.)

The woman was rescued- hallelujah!- from the cashless kidnapper. He will probably be able to kick himself in prison for quite a few years for not stopping at an ATM machine on the way home from  his criminal activity. Adding further insult to injury, I’m guessing  his story will take on mythical dimensions of stupidity and ineptitude after a few years of being embellished by  various cell mates. I refuse to imagine anything else that may befall him beyond this point.

But I continue to wonder about the pizza delivery guy, as I wonder about all persons like him who seem to hang around long enough to talk to a news reporter. What would he have said to enquiring minds who need to know? “Well, I held the phone firmly with my left hand, and dialed with the second finger of my right hand because I had previously injured my first finger- the one I would normally dial with.” I’m not- no way, no how- demeaning what this guy did; I’m just saying, who wouldn’t have done the same thing? A person is in trouble- it’s easy to make a contribution toward the solution; do it.

Hero? Again, the guy who falls on a grenade is a hero. The woman who runs into a burning house to save children or pets is a hero. The employee who blows the whistle on a criminal employer, and risks their job to do so, is a hero. Calling 911 is not heroic. It is practical. It is the proper thing to do.

OK. I’m not only sliding this soapbox back out of the way, I’m taking an ax to it. You might want to hang around in case the ax head flies off. You can call 911, and tell whoever asks, about what might have happened. Shoot, some would say you’re already a hero since you’re willing to take on such a job. In fact, you ARE a hero! You are!

You are. Really. You and the pizza guy.

Hero- overused word of the hour..


“…be thankful for new young heroes.”

Those are the final words of an article by Gil LeBreton, in the sports section of today’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram, regarding last Saturday’s collapse of a large fabric and metal practice facility. The article is his contribution to the new pastime of American media-types: find the hero! LeBreton continues,
“These weren’t firemen or policemen. These were players who, within seconds after the collapse, were courageously kicking in a window to free a team scout, lifting heavy steel supports to free a sports writer or ripping apart vinyl with their bare hands to free others.”

My God- can you believe it- “Shredding vinyl with their bare hands” ? And, “courageously kicking in a window” ? These are young football players who have turned around and gone back into a vinyl and metal building that has fallen down. It was not a burning building, and it was not about to explode. There were no known or suspected I.E.D.s anywhere near the facility. There were people yelling for assistance, who had been trapped by the metal beams, one of whom- Rich Behm- was permanently paralyzed.
Is it wrong for me to think that these men who went back to help others are not heroes? What they did was not in the least dangerous to themselves- the players were, in fact, still wearing their pads. They helped lift metal that they were very capable of lifting. They tore vinyl to get at people caught underneath it. They responded as humans for a million years have responded to other friendly humans in trouble, and with very little possible risk to themselves in this case. They were good guys, as almost anyone in their positions at the time would be.

I find the rush to call anyone heroic who does something well, rather silly and very diluting of those few very real heroic efforts which do happen from to time. I personally don’t even call Sully Sullenberger a hero for doing what he did very very well when he landed his aircraft on the Hudson River. A fine, and very cool, and extremely competent pilot? Yes! Give the man a raise, a fine cigar, and a book deal! But he did what he was supposed to do: he landed the plane. He’d trained for such an emergency, hoped he’d never have to use that training, but did use it very well when called upon to do so.
A heroic effort is that which involves entering a conflict when not doing so would be advisable and understandable, in order to ease the burden or danger of another person (or other living being). Heroic efforts do not include-ever- a sports person working to win a game. We have seen some ballplayers recently who forfeited games by doing altruistic things for the other team. That’s heroism. Cutting left, then right, then lowering one’s head as the touchdown is run toward- is not. They do not include little children calling 9-1-1 because their mommy’s unconscious. A terrific kid, well-trained, smart, cute, savvy, etc..absolultely! But there was not a choice involved; he/she did the only they could do.

Heroes (and heroines- it’s a word I’m not using here because it is awkward to do so; understand, though, that there is no gender implied within ‘heroism.’) are not people who offer help at no risk to themselves just because there are people who are paid and the way to do so (EMTs and police or fireman). There is nothing heroic about a 275 offensive tackle in pads helping lift a metal bar off someone who is trapped by that bar. He’d be an absolute ass if he didn’t help!

The absurb overuse of hero designation is a phenomenon of the media, primarily. I do not hear, in normal conversation, the word ever being used. I think there is an intrinsic understanding among most people that there is a hallowedness implicit in the word and that the use of the word hero should be spare. But that is not true of the news-spitters on Channels 4,5,6,7, or 11. Watch them tonight and you WILL see one or more of them succumb to the apparently always-audible sirens’ song of invitation to sing of the great Ulysses’ glorious deeds. The fireman climbing the tree for a cat, the 7’3″ mega-rich forward going in for a layup, and the clerk who ran out of the store and up the street to return a forgotten purse to a customer: sorry, but I’ve seen the pictures of firemen heading up stair cases that are about to come tumbling down. You have, too. And they are my benchmark now for defining heroism.

That may be an impossible high standard, but so be it. Those firemen (and other genuine and real heroes) do not deserve to have the memory of what they did sullied by a local newsman’s desire to inspire and be memorable to his viewing audience. Nor do we deserve to have our own standards lessened.