1994 Third Point Systems Jumper

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There I was, minding my own business, when I see a body fall by my window, and make a slightly wet but very loud, "smack" against the street like Gallagher mallet'ing a side of beef. Well that's not something you see/hear every day.

I went down, and talked to the cops, who asked, "did she yell". And to my reply of "nope", they responded, "Good. That means a jumper... if she'd been pushed, she'd have screamed the whole way down". And that ended the investigation into the meeting of the homeless person and the sidewalk. One day I'm working up at People's Republic of Santa Monica (California), pretty close to the pier and boardwalk; at a company called Third Point Systems. We were making a information collection and media management system for the Saudi Government. I called it, "MTV meets the CIA". My office had a window that looked over part of the promenade.

There I was, working one day, when I see something falling outside my window and I glance to see a body falling and hear a loud smack.

The sound of a 150 lbs of meat, smacking the asphalt at terminal velocity, is amazingly loud and distinctive. She hit in an alley, which only magnified the sound. Did I mention it was loud? Buckling metal of a car crunch kinda loud, though wetter sounding.

While the body is pretty good at holding our insides, inside - it is less effective when you hit something (like the ground) with a lot of force. She didn't explode or anything, but there was a little collateral splatter.

People in the office around me were asking "what was that?" and I mentioned that someone had just jumped off a building and landed in the alley. Again, it was interesting watching people try to register that another human had just died, and they had been witness (or heard) the event.

I took the elevator down, and walked over to where the crowd was gathering. I wasn't in any hurry, but in the few minutes, the police were already there. I was impressed. They have cops walking or biking the promenade, and we were basically only a couple short blocks from the Santa Monica pier; but that was fast.

They were already covering things up, and trying to shoo the people back.

Many people came to see what the noise or commotion was, or just to see what the big deal was. Many stayed to try to ponder their own mortality or to just try to comprehend the mess that was in front of them. You could watch them processing, or trying to.

I walked up and mentioned to one of the cops what I'd witnessed.

They were very nonchalant about it:

  • Them, "Did you hear screaming on the way down?"
  • Me, "Why, no I had not".
  • Them, "Suicide", they said. "People that are pushed, scream; those that jump, don't."

Brilliant observation. I had jumped to a conclusion (pun intended), and assumed it was a jumper and I hadn't witnessed a murderer - but I had know idea why I thought that. They summed it up, and came to the same conclusion; but with a better reason. I liked that.

The jumper was a lady that I'd seen around. When I say Lady, I mean sort of a bag-lady and vagrant that had been around, begging for money and so on.

Martin Sheen homeless enabler
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When the Sheen comes off the rose

Santa Monica had a rash (literally) of homeless people. Beach communities are magnets because they are warm and arty, there is a place to sleep, and so on. The problem was aggravated when Martin Sheen was made honorary mayor of neighboring Malibu, and promptly declared it a "nuclear-free zone, a sanctuary for aliens and the homeless", meaning they should all come and live there without harassment.

Neighboring radio stations (and mayors) started getting busses together to ship all the homeless up there to comply with Martin's calls for utopia, which was all very humorous and ironic, and outraged many of the locals. Humorous, not in a "ha ha" sort of way, but in a "careful what you wish for" and bitter irony sort of way. They got the desired outcome: homelessness in Santa Monica went up, as did crime, disease, substance abuse. more...

Conclusion

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The cops knew the homeless person. I'd seen her around, and been accosted by her, and given her some handouts a few times. She wasn't a sunny or particularly happy person; where are all the pleasant and happy hobos they have in movies? I met very few in Southern California, San Francisco (which isn't really part of California), or other cities I've been in.

The cops attitude seemed to be that this death wasn't as big a deal as if it had been a contributing member of society; and to a point I tend to agree. While life is valuable, we're deluding ourselves when we pretend that Jonas Salk and Adolph Hitler have the same value to society.

The cops didn't ask me, or any others around, to "go down to the station"; at least not that I know of. They just took notes, and filed another report. "Bag-Lady takes a leap off a parking structure in Santa Monica, goes out with a splat". This was hardly news. Far bigger news was a few weeks later when OJ Simpson was driving back to Santa Monica (Bundy Avenue which was a couple miles away, and I also had an apartment on). For some reason running with a ball makes you more newsworthy than drinking out of a bag. I guess human lives do have relative weights. If you're an ex-athlete that nearly beheads your ex-girlfriend, that's much more newsworthy than if you're a vagrant that plays humpty-dumpty off a parking structure. I'm sure that says something about society; I'm just not sure what. I'm pretty sure it says that we're smarter than we would be if we wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating something that was so common sense. So while it may be callous, life and common sense is like that now and again. They just brought in the ambulance with spatulas, and got on their merry way.

Things were cleaned up, and back to normal before the street lights came on.

Suicide is Painless : 1979 Mr. Volcano Head1997 What is it about my mom?

2003.05.16