Have any of you men ever seen a person in distress, or in a situation that you could have stepped in to assist, and did nothing? For example, the other day I was driving my fire truck and was going to pull out of a parking lot. There was an elderly man starting to cross a busy street, and he was moving at a snail's pace. We all sat there and watched, hoping he made it across, which he did. As I drove off, I felt ashamed of myself. For God's sake I'm driving a fire truck. I could have turned on my emergency lights blocked the road for a few seconds and assisted this person safely across. As a public servant who has sworn to protect the citizens of my city, and a gentleman, I felt real low.

Have any of you ever been in such a situation? Instead of watching, did you act? How can we recognize these things better, and not think after the fact?  

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We got a flat tire one hot summer afternoon.  My mom had six kids in the back of an old Chevy station wagon, parked on the side of a busy highway.  Obviously in need of help.  After several minutes and dozens of cars whizzing by, a couple of rough-looking bikers rode by (this was in the 70's when bikers where actual bad-asses).  They circled around and came back.  My mom was scared and told all of us to stay in the car.  The guys got right to work and had that flat fixed in about 5 minutes, and after profuse thanks, we were back on the road.  

I learned a lot about people that day.  Since I became an adult, I have made it a habit to stop whenever I see someone in need of help--particularly women and the elderly.  I like to think that I am re-paying the favor.

Good story, SB. I am also guilty of passing by someone on the highway who was in need. He was even waving his arms back and forth for help. However, I was in a time crunch but I still felt guilty as hell just passing by. I said in my mind, "someone will stop for him." That was just putting my own needs in front of someone who really needed help. Man I am a selfish person.

We all are guilty of such. I'd be very skeptical if anyone were to say otherwise of themselves. The point is to learn and grow. The instances I've not helped when I could left their mark. I know that shame has since inspired me to be more aware of where I can assist others.

Two thoughts that might help:

1)  You can't forgive others if you don't know how to forgive yourself.

2)  Only the dead are incapable of learning from past mistakes. The rest of us have that choice.

I've not helped, twice.  One was a guy standing next to a Ferrari, not sure how bad I feel about that.

The other was four little nerds trying to change a tire in a dark parking lot.  They  had all their tools and owners manual laid out and were struggling pretty hard as they each took a turn with the lug nuts while their nerd women looking on.  I parked across from them and left my lights on.  My wife at the time asked if I was going to help them, I said, "Nope".  She said, "You'd have already  had it changed by now".  I said, "Yup".  So we sat, and watched.  For forty minutes.  I think the nerdgasm they had after they succeeded was worth me not helping.

You're forgiven.

I'd have  helped if their women hadn't been there.  But, not the Ferrari guy.

Yeah,  my rule of thumb is to let guys help themselves, unless kids and/or women are involved.  If a guy doesn't know how to help himself, now is a good time to learn.

I'm with Shane ... I'd have changed the nerds' tire if they weren't with their girls, not the other way around.  The girls being there means the they need to do it themselves.  Probably better off for everybody if the nerds spend 40-minutes bumbling to rescue their women than for Shane to swoop-in and do it in less-than-ten.


Probably better off for everybody if the nerds spend 40-minutes bumbling to rescue their women than for Shane to swoop-in and do it in less-than-ten less-than-two.


It wouldn't have boded too well for those guys if I had just walked over there and swapped out tires.  The only real reason I stuck around was to make sure they didn't drop a jack on one of them.  It was rather pathetic for a while.  At one point, there was a guy standing on one side of the lug wrench, while another pulled up on the other side.  The high fives and bro hugs and girls doing their happy, clapping, bouncy dance at the end was worth it though.

You've got me beat.  Takes me more than two just to get the damn spare off the bottom of my truck.


They already had everything laid out.  Plus, I used to four wheel a lot and at one point in time carried two spares in the bed of my truck just because I had that many flats.  That's what prompted my ex's comment, she'd timed me and a buddy of mine swapping out a tire in under a minute on the trail.

That's a "Kitty Genovese" scenario.

Kitty Genovese was a young woman who was stabbed to death in Queens, New York, with quite a few witnesses around to the attack. It was late, but a crowded street. The start of the attack was witnessed.

The New York Times castigated the witnesses, but it's not quite true that they "did nothing". One man did yell "Hey, leave that girl alone". And Miss Genovese contributed to her demise by running behind an apartment building, into the dark, where the killer conveniently finished her off. I wasn't there, and I can't read her mind, but if I had to guess, she was self-conscious and trying to stop drawing attention from people who could have saved her.

Mosely (the attacker) was (and is) a coward and he was already intimidated by the man who yelled at him. The problem was not that her would be rescuer was reluctant to get involved; actually, any riot or bar-room brawl proves people can be pretty gutsy when they're worked up. He was specifically afraid to act out-of-the-ordinary in front of the rest of the crowd. It's a weird psychological weakness of humans. Had there been no other witnesses, he probably would have followed them behind the building and confronted Mosely.

In any case, it's a well-documented phenomenon. The critical part is "we". When there is more than one person in the situation watching it, people tend to turn self-conscious and are paralyzed with inaction because they don't want to be witnessed acting out of the ordinary.

The exact same thing happens in a disaster. During the deadly Beverly Hills Nightclub fire, the bus-boy who herded customers out the door and probably saved a few hundred people, recounted being convinced that he was going to get fired for doing something without the bosses permission. Witnesses recount employees walking up and down the hallways looking for someone to take charge.

In the case of the Twin Towers terrorist attack, it took employees an average of 9 minutes after the shockwave made it obvious the building's structural integrity was compromised to decide to do something. Even then, people engaged in chit-chat discussing what they thought happened, and what they should do about it, seeking validation from others. Some people reportedly ran from floor to floor telling people to stay put and wait for instructions. I bet some people died that way.

I understand why you might not like that "paralyzed" feeling. I'll explain how to avoid it next time and feel like a "take charge" kinda guy next time something happens, after I get done with some important tasks for the day.

If you ever find yourself needing help--let's say you sense that you're having a heart attack on a crowded street. You look for someone who looks like he might want to play the hero, get his attention, and say


Once you single him out, you've given him "permission" to act out of the ordinary, and he's very likely to respond. If not, pick another "hero" but once they've seen you give permission to one, more will probably step forward. Once one does, several will.


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