Monday, August 31, 2009

An Episode of Anti-Bystander Effect


So I'm on my way to the pharmacy this afternoon to pick up some prescriptions. I'm tooling along at about 40 mph on a surface street when about a hundred yards ahead of me I suddenly see a half-trailer start fishtailing behind a pickup, and before I can do more than ease my foot off the gas, it overturns, scattering what looks like a small washing machine, and dumping out broken glass and various bits of metal as the truck comes to a stop. I put my foot on the brake and change lanes to avoid the wreckage, finally coming nearly to a stop about 20 feet away, not quite sure what to do. My first instinct is to simply go around it. The right lane is clear. But then my fear of the bystander effect kicks in.

Ever since the traumatic tale of Kitty Genovese in my high school psychology class, I have a heightened awareness of the fact that I should always try to step in and help in emergency situations. So I click on my hazard lights and ease back over into the left lane, coming to a crooked stop in the left lane behind the overturned trailer. I get out of the car to see the surprisingly-young round-faced driver shaking his head ruefully over the debris. I ask him if he's okay, and he says yes. "Is good, for me," he clarifies, waving me off cheerfully. He drags the washing machine out of the median handily, tactfully ignoring my ineffectual movements toward trying to help. Me, help. I was out of breath just from climbing out of my car.

To be sure, I'm fairly sure I'm currently experiencing a bout of anemia, and the downtown air-quality hasn't been much of a help lately. But really, to be of any help in a situation like that, you would practically need the body of a personal trainer. Just exactly what did I (pudgy weakling female that I am) think I could do to help?

So I slink back to my car, leaving any actual help to the able-bodied men converging from the auto-body shop across the street, switch off off my hazards, and drive on to retrieve my prescription medications. By the time I return past the spot, not 10 minutes later, I can't even tell anything happened there. Some industrious soul probably already used a push-broom on the site.

{sigh}. I don't know why I even bother.



This blog entry Copyright © 2009 Carol Hopper — All Rights Reserved.


5 comments:

bonnie jack said...

huh. it's still good that you stopped. you just never know.

lulu said...

You make me smile. As always.

June said...

It is even GOODER! that you have written your (is it?) third blog post. I'm getting inspired!! Blogging has been slogging for me lately, and mostly in my head.

Carolfrog said...

I compose blog entries in my head a lot. Sometimes while driving; sometimes while trying to fall asleep. They rarely make it to the typing/posting stage. :)

Carolfrog said...

Oh, and for the record, I was suffering from bilateral pulmonary emboli at the time, so I had a right to be out of breath after all.