If you were a merchant in a downtown Denver business and a kid walked into your shop from a snow storm and asked to use the telephone, what would you say? Would different circumstances warrant a different response?
On Monday the temperatures reached a balmy 58 degrees in Denver. During the afternoon, school children everywhere were leaving their jackets behind as they headed home for the day. By five that evening, any kid who was still out; involved in after school activities and not at home, was looking for that jacket.
The temperature dropped in a flash and blades of cold air cut through their short sleeves, as sloppy, wet snow flakes began to fall on the unprepared students. This is the story of one particular student who was faced with a few challenges brought on by the weather and how all he wanted was a phone call from the friendly downtown merchants. He found there was no Good Samaritan among them.
Set the scene. After five in downtown Denver, the ambiance changes. There is a certain unsavory element that emerges on the scene. For a youngster out there alone, it could mean trouble. In this particular circumstance, a student is waiting for a ride home from his aunt after track practice. His aunt is on the way to pick him up from the designated bus stop.
At the bus stop, there are many students huddled together and crowded into the bus shelter to get out of the snow and cold. When the aunt pulls up in a rental car and calls out the name of the nephew she does not see, the nephew does not hear her or recognize the car and she leaves. He misses the pick up.
His cell phone is out of power. He has no coat or hat or gloves in the cold and drizzling snow. It is after six in the evening now. He goes outside the bus shelter and huddles up next to a tree, hoping to see his aunt and make it easier for her to see him, not knowing she has already passed. He closes his eyes and braces against the cold. His introduction to social injustice 101 was about to begin.
A police officer approached the teen and told him, “Hey, you can’t sleep here, move along…” He explained to the officer he was waiting for his aunt. The officer looked at the teenager with no coat, no gloves or hat, standing huddled and shivering by a tree in the drizzling snow and said, “Go wait somewhere else.” Andy Taylor would have given the lad a hot chocolate and offered to call his aunt.
The teen did as instructed and decided to find a telephone in any nearby business and call his aunt. There was no merchant who would let him use a telephone. One retail establishment after another refused to help. One business had the audacity to say there was no telephone at all on the premises.
Most egregious offender would be awarded to Colorado Health and Wellness on 5th Avenue who cared for neither the health or wellness of this student when he came in shivering and cold and asked to use the telephone to call his aunt.
They simply refused. Are there procedural restrictions now or safety regulations involved with the use of their telephone? Under this emergency situation, since the kid presented no threat, could they have told the teen to wait in the lobby, took the telephone number and called his aunt for him?
Isn't there an unwritten code that dictates a business, when able, should act as a safe haven for those in need?
Now, his crisis does not create an emergency for them but under guidelines of common courtesy and human decency, would there be almost an obligation for some sort of medical facility to make that phone call to help him?
We live in a world of mass murderers and school shootings and all manner of madness and insanity that is magnified on a daily basis. A teen could get shot and killed for playing music too loud or be a victim of a hit and run driver in the downtown area after dark. If you could help a kid to make it home safe by making a simple telephone call, would you do it? Or would you fear for your own safety and not want to get involved?
It is a despicable statement of things as they are that this teen was denied any help and brushed aside by the merchants who rely on him and his friends to buy lunch there on school days so they can stay in business. He couldn't just stop a stranger on the streets and ask to use their telephone.
The teenager had to walk to Denver General Hospital before he could find a telephone that he could use.
To say this is a clean cut, All American type kid who deserved help and should have received more compassion from the business community downtown would insinuate that maybe a dirty, weird looking kid does not merit the same helpful treatment.
Understanding the argument that merchants might present about how you can’t help everybody and downtown you will run into some colorful characters and I’m running a business here, not social services; ask yourself, what if your teen got stuck downtown and just needed to use a telephone. Would you want someone to help them?