Please, sir, I want some more.

A few months ago I was having lunch with my sister in a crowded Brisbane food court when a middle-aged woman began to choke. At first we didn’t realise what was going on and then the woman got up from her seat and started asking for help while still continuing to choke. She was eating with a friend who also starting asking people for help before dialling 000 for an ambulance. Now at a time like this we would expect someone to stand up instantly and give her the heimlich manoeuvre to dislodge the food caught in her throat but much to my and my sister’s surprise, everyone just sat in their seats and continued to eat while watching this woman slowly turn blue. My sister and I got up to help but we weren’t entirely sure what to do so my sister ran to a nearby chemist to find a staff member who she assumed would have some first aid knowledge. They didn’t. They were about as helpful as wings on a horse. Luckily a young 20-something-year-old guy got up and proceeded to pound her back to help her cough up the food. At this stage the woman’s face was very blue, her eyes were streaming with tears and she was gasping for air. The guy didn’t seem to be getting anywhere by pounding her on the back but then suddenly, the woman took a breath and she was no longer choking. I’ve never been so scared for someone’s life than I was for this woman. I’m in no way shape or form a religious person but thank God for that 20-something-year-old guy. If it wasn’t for him that woman would have probably choked to death in that food court.

The point that I’m making by telling this story is just how disgracful people can be. I know that there are thousands of people in sever poverty and in numerous conflicts world wide that need our help but this woman was right in front of us. She was literally at our feet in a life threatening situation and only four people out of an entire food court took it upon themselves to help. I don’t understand what’s wrong with people. How can we just sit and watch while someone fights for such a basic human instinct like breathing when it’s right in front of us? I have never been so outraged and disappointed in people in my life. My idealistic view of humanity (that everyone is capable of expressing compassion and will help someone in need) has been utterly shattered. I never realised just how unwilling people are to just get up and help someone. My only hope is that if I’m ever choking in a food court that that 20-something-year-old guy is around to save my life because I’m concerned that no-one else will.


2 thoughts on “Please, sir, I want some more.”

  1. You witnessed the bystander effect in action.

    It basically comes down to the diffusion of your perception of individual responsibility when in an emergency situation in a group; Everyone assumes that somebody else will help, and so nobody does. It’s certainly not a positive human trait, but it’s also not deliberately malicious behaviour.

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