Wednesday, February 11, 2015

passing by

Last night as the train was nearing my stop in Causeway Bay, I noticed that a teenage girl at the other end of the car was swaying and moving strangely. I got up and hesitated, not sure of what I was seeing, but then she collapsed into the arms of the elderly gentleman who was with her. The man staggered and managed to drag the girl to nearby seating, and one middle aged woman quickly got up and offered the seat. No one else seemed to notice but of course this wasn't really the case because of the entire train car, at least one other person would have noticed that an old man was dragging a limp girl. When it became clear that the old man and middle aged woman could not quite maneuver the girl into the vacated seat, the man in the neighboring seat finally got up and walked away, not looking back.

At this point I made my way across the train to offer assistance. The girl was semi-conscious at this point and struggling to follow the most basic directions. She was overly warm to the touch and clammy, with slow breathing so I removed her down jacket and lowered her head to her lap while the middle aged woman pressed the emergency button on the train car. We pulled up to Causeway Bay station and were informed that the station staff would be there to assist us. At this point we had the attention of the entire train but still no one offered assistance. No one flagged down the station attendant as he passed our car; instead  people disembarked or boarded the train as though it was business as usual. The woman ran out of the train to locate the station attendant while I held onto the girl, who was beginning to slump over again. Finally two station attendants arrived with a wheelchair and we were able to remove her from the train. At this point the station first aiders took over and the elderly man thanked the middle aged woman and me for our help.

It was depressing to think that in a train of thirty to forty people, only two of us were compelled to give aid to someone in distress. I read about bystander apathy in my high school psychology class but those cases usually involved violence or possible danger to the bystander, which is how people who did nothing to assist crime victims explain their lack of interference. I couldn't imagine the reasons people could tell themselves to justify why they chose not to come to the aid of a teenage girl and her grandfather.

When I shared my disappointment in humanity with SB, he wondered if this outcome was simply bystander apathy or if part of the reticence to assist the girl was due to past memories of SARS. It could be possible that Hong Kong people's experiences with the deadly SARS virus that ravaged the region a decade ago are still fresh in their minds and someone experiencing shortness of breath and fainting is perceived as the greatest danger.

I hope that I never go tail over teakettle in a public place because aside from the embarrassment, I may be left on the ground for a very long time before someone bothers to help me up.

1 comment:

H Miller said...

You did a good (very nice) thing.