Two unusual recent cases show how dependent we are on being where we are supposed to be at the time we are supposed to be there.
A 57-year-old patient was found dead Tuesday in a fire-exit stairwell at San Francisco General Hospital, 17 days after she went missing from her bed in that gigantic medical facility. She apparently had been in the hospital all those 17 days, because no security cameras saw her leave or return.
A massive search through the hospital after she was reported missing failed to find her. While no foul play appears to have led to the woman’s death, investigators are taking a hard look at hospital security measures and how the woman could have been missing for so long.
More than 1,500 miles away from San Francisco, another investigation is taking place, this one focused on airport security. A 9-year-old boy on Oct. 3 managed to slip past Transportation Security Administration officers at the gate, board a flight to Las Vegas and remain undetected throughout much of the flight.
The boy, a runaway, had a history of odd conduct, authorities discovered, apparently avoiding discovery in other situations by blending in with other families. In the airport case, he rode alone on light rail to the terminal and went through checkout without having to show a pass or a ticket. He wasn’t identified as a stowaway until flight attendants on the Delta Airlines jetliner compared conflicting stories he told about who he was and how he happened to be aboard the plane. The boy’s father wasn’t sure what to do with him next, and said he was seeking help.
Both these people, the woman and the boy, appeared to have mental problems, according to The Associated Press, which might explain why they happened to be where they were.
But that doesn’t explain the worry that attended their being misplaced. When people disappear, their families, their friends and others who might be responsible for them, suddenly find the world to be incomplete until the lost are found. That shows once more how intertwined our lives are with those we know, or for whom we are responsible.