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.

You're forgiven.

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.


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


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.

They probably would have not done anything or taken a lot longer to take action. Just saying "someone call 911 doesn't get anything done." You are supposed to do as you did and assign that task to a particular person or else everyone will assume someone else is doing it.

Shane, I'm being completely serious here- your life is a lot more interesting than mine. Seems like you always have some story to tell.

On my first day of Torts class, during my first week of law school, the fire alarm went off. Of course we all waited for the prof to direct us to exit the building - same as that bus boy.

We talked to the prof months later about the incident, when we all knew each other better, about how it's irrational to risk your life for a grade, or even in order to stay in law school. OTOH, there's a greater likelihood it's a false alarm, and the prof will be upset at the first people to leave, than that there's actual danger.

  I don't think you ought to beat yourself up over it.  The old guy is probably happy to be up and about at all, we've got an old man who comes into our place of business every day, walking around town just for fun. He moves at the same speed as a tectonic plate, but he's just out smelling the roses. Had he been toppled on the sidewalk and you drove by, that would be something to chide yourself for.

   I had a similar situation arise earlier though. I am generally one to pull over and check to see if people need help, (up here in Maine, I might be the only one they see for hours). I've also helped chase off a burglar, and have caught people's loose livestock for them.  But just recently, I was put at odds by a situation in the local pharmacy.

   A surly, badly dressed young woman was arguing at length with her 3-4 year old child in the checkout line. The conversation consisted mostly of gimme's and no's. As the pair was leaving, I noticed the kid shoot his mother a look of defiance, and stuff a handful of the candy she asked for into her pocket, then head straight out the door.  At one point, I believe I would have maybe yelled and followed after them, but my mind kept going back to my recent training at reserve police academy.  They impressed upon us not to get involved with things unless it was to prevent major property loss or injury, while we weren't on duty. Instead I spoke to the cashier, who then told the manager. Still, I wonder a bit over whether I should have taken action.


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