Hi Mary Ann!
Off The Wall, June 18, 2010

Departing from my residence doorway one summer day last year, I stood on the landing to turn toward my steps when I looked upward to the sky and saw a helicopter coming in my direction. As I started down my stairs, I watched intensely, for then I realized this flying machine was on a mission – to not only check me out, but also to follow me wherever I went. Talk about big brother watching, he was up there looking down.

I, too, had an errand to attend – get to the doctor’s by 2:45 p.m.

As I walked along the sidewalk, I glanced upward and observed this chopper slowly following me. Now, that I found strange. The first thing that went through my mind was, “Radio to the Latrobe Police Department and have Sgt. Bumar pick me up. I don’t know what I’ve done, but you’ve found me.”

Continuing toward 911 Ligonier Street, I gazed toward the overcast sky. There it was, still following me block by block. Then it hit me big time. “Wow,” I thought, “after all this time…” I couldn’t contain myself. All the pieces fit. I bet that’s Mary Ann up there who’s an EMT for one of the emergency medical helicopter companies. I haven’t seen her for years! So I raised my arm and started yelling, “Hi Mary Ann! Hi Mary Ann!” It was many years ago I met her when she taught CPR for the American Red Cross. I had also sung with her mother in the Holy Family Church choir many, many moons ago.

As the chopper followed me down to the two-story office complex, I looked up one more time and smiled. I then entered the premises and walked along the carpet entrance until I reached the elevator. Getting in it, I pushed the button for the second floor and up I went. After getting there, I walked to the doctor’s waiting room, and headed straight for the sliding glass window where the receptionist sat waiting. I pushed it open and announced, “You can call the airport, now. I made it here safely.” I then related the story.

Returning home, I searched the skies, but no helicopter.

The next evening, I decided to walk to Legion Keener Park. With my oxygen tank strapped to my back, I figured all would go well and I would be able to get there and back with no trouble. I was right about one thing. I was able to make it downward and did get to the asphalt pathway. My goal was to make it to the trestle.

Then all of sudden, two unexpected things happened. First, the helicopter showed up and hovered above me in a stationery position. But worse, I had run out of oxygen.

I raised my hands and yelled, “Hey Mary Ann, if that’s you, could you help me out?” Nothing happened. I then turned around and began to stagger toward Ligonier St. The chopper stayed right with me. I thought – that’s special. I looked up in dismay. I even raised my arms. Nothing. Then I pushed onward until I got to the High Rises. There I stopped and so did the “mechanical bird.” Two things again crossed my mind. “Don’t think Mary Ann’s aboard this flight. She wouldn’t leave me like this. Second, I’m sure the pilot has a radio. Why doesn’t he call the police?

I did work my way up to Ligonier St., turned right, and staggered my way up the hill. The chopper stayed right with me. And second, no, the police showed up. If they would have been notified by ye “honorable” pilot, I am certain one of our finest would have been there.

No sooner did I get so far up the street then did my “spying machine” make a sharp left and took off. “Hey man,” I said to myself. “This is not time to leave.” But he did.

But as serious as you may think this is, I laughed through the whole ordeal. I mean, what else could I do? Any other behavior would have required more oxygen and energy. I’ve learned so much from that evening’s outing. Now, I carry a cell phone. I know my limits as to walking. And never expect old friends may be in helicopters that hover above me. Fat chance. On the other hand, you never know where old friends just may pop up, or in this case, come down to greet you!

- Paul J. Volkmann
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