Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jumper at the Arndale

The tall building on the right is called the Arndale.
But the jumper was actually on a 5-story car park
at the Arndale Mall.
I landed in Manchester, England, dropped my bags at the hotel and raced out into the rain to begin my 48 hours in England’s 2nd largest city. I decided to get out of the rain and do the Old Trafford tour and headed to the Victoria train station. It took me a while to remember that  I could speak English again and expect it in return.  Or so I thought.
“The tram’s not running. Didya hear why?” the Metrolinks employee asked me. I shook my head.
“There’s a jumper at Arndale.”
English, yes. But I had no idea what he was trying to tell me. A jumper. Someone jumping onto the tracks? Someone who jumped the queue and didn’t pay? Something completely different? I was clueless. And I guessed Arndale was a place, but it meant nothing to me.
“You’ll have to take the bus. Follow me.”
So I followed this gray-toothed man in a Metrolinks jacket back out of the train station while he peppered everyone we passed with the same question.
“Didya hear there’s a jumper at Arndale?”
“Police have everything blocked off. There’s a jumper at Arndale. You’ll have to go around.”
He turned back to me as he positioned me just out of the rain. “He picked a ‘ell of a day, din’t he? The bus’ll be along in 12 minutes or so.”
Naively, I still hoped for the best.
Soaked from the waist down where my umbrella failed me, I boarded the bus with the other passengers who’d been derailed from their tram. We got on and gossip volleyed back and forth.
“Hear he lost his job.”
“Oy. My heart bleeds for him,” one man said sarcastically.  “He’s not the only one.”
“If you’re gonna do it, do it straightaway,” one twentysomething said as she shook the rain off her pink head.
“Can’t he jump faster?” someone else said behind me.
So it was a suicide jumper. I’d been afraid of that. The police had blocked off several streets that also intersected with tram rails. It was 11:00am.
I finally connected with another tram that took me to Old Trafford and forgot about my morning. Then, around 4:30pm I headed back the way I’d come, taking the tram to Picadilly where I’d transfer back to Victoria Station.
But when I got to Picadilly, there was a Metrolinks guard blocking the escalator to my tram.
“Sorry, miss, you’ll have to go back to Picadilly Gardens and then walk. There’s been an incident and the city center is blocked off.”
An incident. The jumper. He must have done it.
Sure enough, as I wandered in circles trying to figure out which direction I was headed, I came across the yellow taped barricade near a building emblazoned with Arndale at the top. I saw the police erect a blue tent just down the block, close to the building. It was only about five stories high there; a parking garage. Before the tent went up, I saw a blue tarp on the ground.
The jumper.
So he’d done it not long before I’d arrived. He’d spent the day on the roof of the Arndale Mall from what I surmised. He’d stood in the rain deliberating all day. Soaking wet and depressed beneath the steel grey skies, he’d jumped.  I wonder how many times he’d wavered and what finally drove him to jump?
I thought about him all evening. The sun broke through the clouds and turned the sky a silvery pink. It was a beautiful sunset, but he missed it.


  1. Wow! When I saw the word 'Arndale' I knew it was the one in Manchester as I've been there - and gotten lost there. How did that guy find his way to the roof so easily? Really I found my way inside the place, but needed a security guard to help me find my way out of it... and I was with a friend who lived within a few miles of Manchester and had been to Arndale before. And she was lost too.
    We had to use a side entrance that nobody uses to get out as the whole place had closed for the day when we were asked to find out way to the exits... not a good feeling when you're lost in a shopping centre and have to ask to let out by security.

    My heart goes out to the poor lost man's family. I hope they are okay... and I'm sure there was a different way of dealing with his depression than to do what he did, but he didn't know what it was until the last second.

  2. Like you, Mozette, I found the gigantic mall confusing. But this guy was local, so apparently knew his way around. I learned the next day that he was a 42-year-old man and that his mother had been called to the scene to try to talk him out of it. I can't imagine what that horrible day must have been like for her.