Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What would you do? : Obstacle Race

So, the second scenario in the series, this is something I remember reading about it in a moral education book, when I was 10. It has been such a long time, and knowing that this lesson has been around for such a long time, I feel amazed that certain things never change.

A few months back, me and my husband were driving down from New York City to New Jersey, and were suddenly brought to an abrupt halt by a street light splayed right across the road, spreading out through almost three lanes. It was my husband's presence of mind that we weren't hit by the car behind us and didn't injure ourselves. The driver from the car behind us stepped up to help us extract the car wheels from the iron lamp post and to redirect the traffic. All three of us managed to get the pole off the highway, yet there was some rubble right in the middle.

As we drove off, and recovered from the shock, we started talking about how bad it could have been and why weren't there any signs, warning drivers about the collapse. At that time, I asked my husband if we should be calling 911 and let them know of the incident, so at least other drivers would be safe. Even though, we were contemplating our next step, a voice inside said, "Somebody must have called already"! That voice, which blurs your vision, blurs the call of responsibility. And as usual, we over thought it, and ended up not calling the police or roadways. 

The next day, I went through the newspaper, checking to see if there were any reports about injuries or accidents due to the pole collapse. Not finding any news, I felt relieved that not calling after all, did not lead to any harm. But, it could have! When our car was screeching across the steel rubble, all I could think was why hadn't the authorities done anything about it. And minutes later, when we had escaped, I had forgotten about how the authorities would help. The problem is we think men in authority are superheroes, they should know everything, they should be capable of being present at multiple places at once, they should have the power to right the wrongs of every citizen and above all, they should be successful without any help from the common man. 

Unfortunately, this is not how it works. Authorities can do their jobs well, only if the citizens are responsible. And most of us have a very trivial definition of responsibility: there should be responsibility towards us, but we should not be held responsible for anything. Sometimes, all it takes is a phone call, and that could help the authorities do their job and save people trouble. Why is it that once we are out of the woods, we forget about the people who could get stuck there? Aren't we supposed to be social animals, who are co-dependent? Why do we walk away from trouble, assuming that it is not our job. It is my job, my husband's job, my neighbor's job, your job, every person's job. 

What is the worst that could have happened even if we called 911? They would have told us off, saying they were aware of the situation. So what? At least I wouldn't have lost sleep over whether the rubble was removed, whether there were any accidents, if anyone was hurt. I have tried to change things after that, and what helps me is reminding myself that nobody else had seen the blunder. If they had, I wouldn't be stumbling across a pothole or some other hazard. Procrastination is mankind's biggest enemy. And I have had to fight it down many times, but I am glad that lately, I have been able to come out a winner.

So, my question again, is, what would you have done? Would you have walked away or done your part? Every person is busy in their fast paced life, but should we be waiting for an accident to come as a rude awakening? Overcoming the hurdle of procrastination turns out to be one of the most challenging tasks and how one does it, completely differs from person to person.

Looking forward to hear your thoughts, reactions and experiences!


  1. Very resonant of the sort of silly laziness that has prevented me from doing what needed doing. Timely reminder too.

    1. I guess all of us procrastinate and wait for the pressure to build up, before we actually take steps! Maybe, that's what makes us human :)

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Would love to hear your thoughts!

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