Thursday, June 22, 2017

To Help or Not to Help? That is the (stupid) Question.

As part of my job, I visit stores that carry my company’s product. Today I was in a store and had to wait while the employee waited on another customer. Also in the store was another man who was yelling to anyone who would listen that he was pissed with the store owner (who wasn’t there) for not refunding his money on something he purchased that he wasn’t happy with. He was yelling, and continued to yell while the employee was waiting on the other customer.

[That description of the ‘disgruntled’ customer was an extreme understatement for purposes of brevity. This was more than the annoying person who calls customer service to complain.]

After the first customer left, and while the irate customer was still carrying on the employee motioned me over to take the collateral I brought for him and rushed me out of the store.

Something inside of me told me I should call for help.

And I hesitated.


I’m not a person who ‘profiles’ certain people, nor am I the kind of person to assume anything because of a geographical – but I am a former bar owner/manager, and have seen my share of fights. You know when you can handle them, and you know when you need help; however, there are some instances where it is not as easy to tell, when a situation looks like it can be diffused but then suddenly takes a different direction. I’ve seen enough bar fights to recognize the signs of that, too.
This particular situation toed that line of getting to a point of no return. When the employee rushed me out of the store, I saw a look on his face that I couldn’t understand; it could have been fear, annoyance, or get-the-hell-out-before-something-happens.

Whatever it was, I did not feel right leaving him alone in the store with that agitated customer. I went back to my car (which was a few feet away from and visible to the door) and picked up my phone to call the police.

So, why did I hesitate? There were a number of reasons, and none of them valid when stacked against the ‘what if’.

What if it was nothing – or, what if I was overreacting?

Something in my gut got my attention. Just because I’m a girl and have been accused of overreacting enough times that I’d be a gazillionnaire “if I had a nickel for every time someone said that to me”, that is not reason enough to ignore that nagging feeling that this situation was rapidly nearing that point of no return.

I don’t want to bother the police if it turns out to be nothing – they’ve got plenty to do.

But what if it’s not ‘nothing’?

What business wants the police showing up?


If this was nothing, how would it reflect on the employee? Would this get him in trouble?

There are so many different ways this could impact him negatively if the situation turned out to be harmless.

I had all of these thoughts going through my head while I sat in the car for that minute, watching what was going on inside the store. He was still gesturing wildly and yelling; the employee was on the phone (probably trying to call his boss).

I did not feel right just leaving. I actually got out of the car to go back into the store – why? I have no idea what I thought I could do. And while I was outside looking in, I called someone to ask if I should call the police.

Why? My gut was already telling me not to leave it alone!

My friend told me they had been in the same situation and that ‘someone’ had ended up calling the police, so it worked out.

“Someone?” What the hell? Who? In this particular situation, who exactly would that ‘someone’ be? The employee was in the store alone with that guy; if he didn’t - or couldn’t - call, who would? That response was so laughably unhelpful – basically telling me not to worry about it, that someone else would – that I made up my mind immediately and hung up on him to call the police.

Calling that person may have been the best thing for me to do, if only because it helped me make up my mind. Who the hell advises someone else to let someone else worry about a situation that you can see?

I don’t know how it turned out; the police came before I left. I didn’t want to stick around to see if I called them unnecessarily because I was already angry at myself for my indecision to take steps to help someone who could have been in need.

I’m still polluted - with myself. The bottom line is that I witnessed a situation that my own experience told me could have gotten out of control, and I hesitated to take action because I worried about the negative backlash  - that wouldn’t have even affected me – if I was wrong. What kind of society did I grow up in that I would question my urge to get help if I felt someone needed it? Do I need to make sure someone is bleeding first?

I’m glad I called the police. Even if it was for nothing. I never would have been able to forgive myself if their help had been needed.

I don’t care anymore about being wrong about assessing a possible ‘situation’. What matters now is making sure I’ve done what I could to help, even if it’s only in case I was right – and even if it’s only once. If I put the shoe on the other foot … what would I have wanted another person to do? It should never matter on the outcome.  All lives are valuable, and I will not make decisions that basically sum up what amounts to be judgment of the value of another’s.