I secretly live for the day that I’m caught on hidden camera for ABC’s show, “What Would You Do?“ Long before the series’ inception, I not only made it my mission to stand up for what’s right in the face of everyday dilemmas (like the time a cashier insulted a developmentally disabled customer because he spent a little too much time counting his change in the checkout line), but I always feel compelled to follow through on random acts of kindness when the moment presents itself. Though today, I stumbled upon a situation that called into question whether or not I should have intervened.
Chicago’s bus system is extremely reliable, accurate and punctual — even in the harshest of weather conditions. So naturally, it felt a bit out of the ordinary to be among a large group of Chicagoans eagerly waiting at the bus stop without any glimmer of approaching transportation. As 20 minutes passed, the man next to me (brown paper lunch bag in hand) proceeded to ask if he could borrow my iPhone to make a call. Completely leery of the situation (I could actually visualize him darting away with my $600 phone as I helplessly stood on the sidewalk), I hesitated for a moment, but ultimately handed over my device and held my breath.
While I could only interpret every other word of his broken English, I understood the franticness in explaining his tardiness to the other end of the line (and by the sound and decibel of his words, the person clearly wasn’t buying the story). When the bus finally rounded the corner 32 minutes past its slated time, the man was so visibly upset and panicked that he asked to use my phone again to assure his supervisor that he’s now in transit (by repeatedly pleading “I’m telling you the truth. The bus was late. You have to believe me!”).
When I hopped off the bus three stops later, I stared at the phone in my hand and for some reason (without much rehearsal of coherent thought) decided to dial the number. I simply said, “I’m the person who’s phone your employee just borrowed. I’m a complete stranger and have no vested interest in this situation, but I did want to let you know that, for whatever it’s worth, the bus was more than 30 minutes late and your employee was telling you the truth.”
The supervisor (I presume), sounded completely astonished that I went to bat for a total stranger and replied, “Thank you so much for letting me know. This is his third late arrival and I was about to fire him because I thought he was making up an excuse about the bus. I appreciate you telling me. You saved his job this morning.”
Fortunately, the conversation boded well, though I did feel rather awkward about my random intervention. If you were presented with the same opportunity, would you have made the call or just minded your own business? How far is too far? And when does helping another cross the line into butting your nose where it doesn’t belong — even if your heart is in the right place?
June 5, 2012 Comments Off