I made a quick jaunt up to NY this weekend. As always, New York is a tasty cornucopia of flesh and brick fused together in a rhythmic dance, where the baseline beat is the rotating grind of turnstiles and the transition light pulse from green to amber to red and back to green. [Stage left][The second platform waiting for the D train UPTOWN] (A desolate scene loosely populated with strangers midway between pitch black tunnels...simultaneously reeking of urine and infinite possibilities) [ENTER] drunken man.
There is no warning... just the fast paced visual as this guy, lets call him "Arsenio," takes a header off the platform right onto the tracks.
It was instantly a tense situation.
Having hours earlier been involved in an extensive dialogue about the bystander effect as detailed in "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell... I was instantly faced with the emotion of ... THAT GUY IS IN TROUBLE. SOMEONE ELSE WILL HELP HIM.
When there are others around, the bystander effect allows us as individuals to transfer responsibility to the group evenly, thus... no "one" person is responsible and thus no "one" person is going to make a move.
But it was fresh on my mind... and so I was able to have a rapid cognitive process to squelch those feelings and race to the edge of the platform, hand outstretched.
As I tugged, another gentlemen, lets call him FonteLeroy, came to assist, and we pulled Arsenio to safety.
FonteLeroy was empowered to help by my action, NOT by the initial gravity of Arsenio's situation. He had already transferred that responsibility to me. Now he was merely jumping onto the proverbial "train in motion."
Why do we look for others to act in our place?
Why, as a society, is it our place of comfort to do the minimum?