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March 5, 2013

The other day, my mom was at the door, talking with a neighbor. The smoke alarm interrupted their talk. My mom, thinking she knew the source of the problem, was dismissive of the alarm…she quickly said bye to the neighbor, and went in to deal with the alarm. It actually turned out to be a small fire in the kitchen. She dealt with it well, and she and the kitchen are both only singed.

Here’s the thing, though. I think the neighbor should have stuck around, even though my mom was dismissive. Societally, we’re too ready to do as we’re told, and we’re far too ready to ignore obvious dangers. People routinely sit at their desks while fire alarms go off, ignore danger signs, and so on. We often say – and we’re right – that complacency is the price of a secury society*.  Fight that tendancy.

Stay to make sure your neighbor doesn’t get need help with a fire. Don’t ignore the creepy feeling you get around the guy in the elevator. Look around you in parking lots. If something’s weird, call for help. Call it in. It costs nearly nothing, and could save someone’s life.

Today I heard a shout from next door…nearly a scream. It was a man’s voice, and it might have been a shout of pain, or of effort. I debated for a minute, then called the security patrol. (If we didn’t have one in this neighborhood, I probably would’ve called the police.)  I’m home alone, and so not comfortable walking over – into a potentially dangerous situation – by myself. The patrol checked it out, and it turned out to be nothing…some guys pulling a stump. I suppose if this were a novel, it would have turned out to be the murdered bodies of some mob boss. But it still makes a good point: We’ve GOT the resources, and it cost me absolutely nothing to call it in. It really could have been someone hurt, passed out, or in some other kind of trouble.



*Say what you will, If you’re reading this then you’re about a jillion times safer – whether we’re talking medicine, disease, food and water supply, war, or violence – than 80% of the world, and than well over 99% of all history.

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