About a month ago, I met and rode mountain bikes with Franz Schneider for the first time. (I’d contacted him through his terrific mountain-bike website, biker.lu.) Franz bike commutes to work and he made a plan for us to meet up on his way home in Strassen (Stroossen in Luxembourgish), a neighboring town about three miles from my Luxembourg apartment. We’d ride to his house and, after he changed clothes and bikes, spend a couple hours riding the trails and dirt roads of the Strassen Forest. Sounded good to me.
So we meet up, chitchat a little while riding and, just after pedaling into Strassen, we pass what appears to be a drunk (or dead?) guy lying in the grass next to some bushes at the side of the road. My initial thought is: “Interesting. I didn’t think Luxembourg had drunkard-slash-junky-looking folks lying around, but I guess they do.” At the time I’d been in the country for two weeks and hadn’t yet seen anyone like this. And then, truthfully, I didn’t give the guy another thought. (If I had stopped to think about every dubious-looking character I saw lying in the grass at Maritime Heritage Park on my way home back in Bellingham, I’d have never made it home.)
But Franz is clearly alarmed. He skids to a stop, gets off his bike and approaches the guy. A bus driver pulls over, jumps out of his bus to see if he can help. A passing motorist stops too. Franz tries to rouse the guy but he’s not moving at all. I’m sure he’s dead. Wow, my first dead guy, I think to myself. Welcome to Luxembourg!
Soon enough, the guy starts moving around, gives a big exhalation of breath whereupon the air all the way from Strassen to Luxembourg reeks of booze. He tries to stand, plants his feet wide apart for balance and looks right at me. He says something that has great meaning to him in Drunkenbourgish and then keels over and passes out again.
It’s cold, a damp 35 degrees that chills one to the bone, and so Franz and the bus driver are concerned that the guy will freeze to death. Franz dials 112 for an ambulance to take the guy to the hospital. Ten minutes later an efficient team of EMT folks arrive and herd the guy into the back of their vehicle. Addi, my drunken friend!
All I can think of is the two emergency room visits I had in recent years—for facial lacerations when a tree fell on me; a broken collarbone—and how they each cost me more than $1,000. And that’s with insurance and without an ambulance ride to get there.
Back on our bikes, Franz and I continue on to his house. I ask him if the drunk guy is going to have to pay for his treatment. He wasn’t sure, but he didn’t think so.