Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sticking your nose in - when it's a good thing

Darling Harbour - nice, but not for swimming. (WikiCommons:Adam.J.W.C)
So, today's adventure involved P (aka He Who Married Me Last Month) and I pulling some poor (probably) drunk and very distressed girl out of Darling Harbour's waters about 30m away from 2 buses full of people who sat and watched.

We were at Star City Wharf sitting on a tour bus, one of two packed with people, and saw a girl walk across the road and jump neatly into the water. We couldn't see into the water but we could see all the surrounding wharves. Some nearby people (friends?) came over and pointed and laughed, and a jogger stopped, said something and ran on. No one threw in the nearby life buoy. We figured she was okay and doing something stupid and would be out soon. Her friends(?) stayed there, pointing and giggling, but it became apparent they were really, really out of it - falling down drunk, probably.

A couple of minutes later she hadn't emerged and we decided to take a look and just at this point the buses decided they were revving up to  go. P went over and looked down into the water and found her severely distressed and crying and clinging to a grip at the edge. The gap between the water level and the wharves was about 3-4 feet - too far for someone to get out on their own steam, and there were no steps.

P had to guide her to swim around to a lower spot where we - and a nearby security guard who had come out of Star City to look at what was happening - managed to haul her the few feet from the water and on to dry land. She was cold to touch, and throwing up a little water (the water there is pretty filthy from boats) and when we got her out she just collasped and wheezed on the wharf, too incoherent to answer questions. Another guard came over to help and we left her there with them, after calling the police (our tour bus driver was getting pretty angst-y at this point - I'm not sure he spotted her jumping in and as far as he was concerned we were holding up things).

Afterwards a few people on the bus asked us what had happened and it now sounds like she may have been trying to get away from the two people following her. She had no hand bag, no jewelery; it was 8am and she was still in nice night out clothes.

I'm aware that tweeting it after may have made it sound more heroic than it was (sorry lads!). All we did was help lift a girl from the water and make sure that she was in safe hands after. The police haven't called back so as far as we know, she is fine. I am also aware that I should have probably specified that everything was okay after as you lot are all nice people who worry about stuff like this, going on the responses I got.

Which is a bit different to the responses that she got today. Whether she jumped in for fun, for a bet, as something worse, whatever; it may have started harmless but within a few minutes she was clearly in trouble and two buses nearly drove off and left her. The Bystander effect - or Genovese syndrome  - suggests that as the numbers of bystanders increase in an emergency, the less likely it is that someone will offer help. "This happens because as the number of bystanders increases, any given bystander is less likely to notice the incident, less likely to interpret the incident as a problem,and less likely to assume responsibility for taking action."

I am convinced the bystander effect should be taught in schools (along with Milgram's electric shock experiment, but that's a story for another day). I figure most of you know this already but please remember, if a situation is going bad and there are lot of people looking at it, that doesn't mean anyone is actually doing anything to make it better. Be that squeaky, meddling, nosey wheel. Sometimes you'll feel like a complete tool but when it's needed, it's really needed.

And, on a side note, P's weight lifting skillz are seriously good. :D

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