It is wrong to abuse the kindness of strangers

Yesterday morning we had a mixture of rain and sleet that resulted in the streets and sidewalks having the kind of icy slush that makes walking tricky. As I was making my way across campus for a seminar, I slipped and fell. It occurred at almost exactly the same time as a plane slid off the tarmac and ended up stuck in the grassy median while taxiing to the terminal at the Cleveland airport, which gives some indication of the slipperiness.

A student who was walking about twenty paces away came running and helped me get up. I did not hurt myself but was grateful for his assistance because the icy surface and the lack of anything to grab made it hard for me to get a firm foothold and get up by myself.

People in general are kind and considerate and helpful towards others and I have been the beneficiary of such acts many times. So I was really annoyed when just a few hours later I came across this video in which people pretend to slip and have a bad fall and exhibit difficulty getting up, even when others try to help them. It is supposedly some new fad.

This kind of thing is deplorable because it breeds cynicism in people and may make them hesitate to help someone the next time because they wonder if they are being pranked. It is not funny in the least and the sooner it stops the better.


  1. gordonduffy says

    I once fell and couldn’t get up. It was very scary. A bus driver got out of their bus and helped me up.

  2. dgrasett says

    I am 71. Last year I fell outside my apartment building. It was raining on ground so cold that there was ice. I couldn’t get enough traction to raise even part of me, and I have a bad back. It felt like 15 or 20 minutes (but it was probably only 5) before someone came out of the building and, while slipping themselves, helped me up. I was wet through, from the rain and from the pavement. I had waved at several vehicles before my good samaritan came. No-one stopped.
    Anyone who deters people from helping others needs to be in the same situation.
    Our walk way is much better cleared, now.

  3. bcmystery says

    Last Sunday, I was looking out the front window of my house when someone pulled up in front of my neighbor’s house. He opened the car door and proceeded to fall out onto the pavement. My first thought was to run out and help, but then I hesitated. Just for a moment, but long enough to run through a sequence of thoughts: is this for real? Will he be mad? Is it serious? What if he doesn’t understand why I’m there, or resents me? What if he’s armed?

    I’m not sure how long it took me to sort through all this, a few seconds probably. Finally I ran out to help. Turned out he had a heart condition and had driven to his parents because he was feeling out of sorts. After parking he’d had a dizzy spell. I helped him inside, where his mother and father took charge. I later learned they took him to the hospital and he was okay.

    After I went back to my place, I couldn’t stop thinking about my hesitation. While my first instinct was to help, my second was to fret about the potential consequences of acting. Not consequences for him, but for me. It may not have been long, but even a few seconds for someone with a heart condition can be huge. Fortunately it turned out okay, but it gave me a lot to think about.

    I suppose this will make me a “get off my lawn” kinda guy, but I have to wonder how much the fact that much of our entertainment is now made up of laughing at people being humiliated. Reality TV is about watching human trainwrecks unfold for our amusement. It’s starting to seem easier—and smarter—to keep your head down and not get involved.

  4. ollie says

    Good post Mano. So many people who do this sort of thing don’t think about the consequences to others at all. Just read the comments on the youtube video.

  5. Heidi Nemeth says

    Hesitating so as to evaluate the situation is exactly what you would have been taught to do as a first aid responder. If it is unsafe to help a victim, responders are told to stay away from the victim and the dangerous situation. (Instead, call for help.) Before actually helping a victim, first aid responders are told to seek consent. Identify yourself, state your intent, and ask if you can help the victim. Consent is implied if the victim is unconscious. There is one more step before helping the victim -- call for help. Following this procedure may take precious seconds away from giving aid to a victim, but helps ensure the safety of the responder, the rights of the victim, and quick response by emergency medical personnel.

    Luckily, it takes several minutes for permanent brain damage to set in after the heart has stopped.

  6. lochaber says

    well, on the upside, if his channel gets as popular as he likes, it will likely end up as evidence against him in a civil court case. Or maybe someone will end up seeing it, recognize him, and give him a bit of a thrashing when they happen to get splashed with milk/oj/whatever.

    I don’t get it. I don’t see how it’s funny/amusing, it’s destructive and just stupid (the fake falling/slipping, etc.) and it’s harming others (not just the supermarkets, but all the bystanders who are getting sprayed/splashed with various beverages.
    fucking idiocy

  7. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    The blighter should be prosecuted for vandalism … he’s throwing the jugs of milk and juice, not dropping them like a true slip and fall.

    Someone should pretend to get hit by one of the flying bottles and fall over too, but just lie there moaning softly about lawyers.

    My reaction would be to pin the guy down in the guise of preventing further injury and call the management, his parents if he’s a minor, and 9-1-1 … take him REALLY SERIOUSLY.

  8. bcmystery says

    The good news, perhaps, is I did some things right, and what I did wrong didn’t add to the problem. No doubt it would be good to have a better understanding of what steps to take in emergencies, and to learn how to evaluate a situation so that in my effort to help I don’t make things worse.

    My point, probably poorly made, was that my thoughts had little to do with the best way to be helpful and a lot to do with worrying more about myself than a person in apparent need. I wasn’t performing the rational calculus of a first responder, even if superficially a few of my thoughts mirrored the analysis of a first responder. I mostly was trying to come up with a reason not to get involved. In the end, I helped. And even managed to not make the situation worse. But it would have been pretty easy to walk away from the window and pretend I didn’t see anything.

    And why? Because our culture has drifted in a direction where the cost of helping may be too high. Maybe we’re being recorded for the entertainment of strangers. Maybe our efforts will get us sued, or hurt or killed. We can’t all be trained first responders with the skills to perform a risk analysis on the spot. It’s not surprising that I considered the idea it was better to close the curtains and look the other way.

  9. Leiningen's Ants says

    This is one of those things you don’t really think about until it really hits home that you’re thinking about it ALL THE TIME, like racism, or, like bcmystery is getting across. If you’re surrounded by a culture that allows “parody” only to the point of yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded theatre, where’s the impetus to treat anything as what it seems to be on face value alone, when what you’re seeing could be any number of things that it doesn’t look like? The old cliche about believing none of what you read and half of what you see pops to mind. Yeah, it makes you a cynical bastard, but you might live longer with that outlook on life. Unfortunately, if you’re wrong, and it is what it seems, the guy with his biology failing on him might lay down and die before your averted eyes.

    Don’t they call this The Bystander’s Dilemma or something? Anyway, whatever. It reminds me that if there’s one good story from that bible thing, it’s the one about the Samaritan who art thou brother.


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