Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Be Loud

Greetings from Vancouver, Canada! I’m here for a little while for work and (I hope) to eat my weight in sushi. I was hoping to blog while over here, but I had no idea how quickly I would have something to blog about.

If you are too busy to read the whole blog, here is the message: if you or someone else is in danger, be loud. Forget polite and well-behaved. Get and be loud.

If you’ve got some more time, enjoy the rest of the blog.

As is standard operating procedure for me these days, I had a seat almost at the very back of the plane. This usually means that the airline runs out of cabin food before they get to me, so I end up with a first class meal (this time lamb) and I have a shorter walk to the bathroom and generally easier access to water throughout the flight. As is also usual, I took a short nap at take off and then settled into watching a movie (this one was Date Night - good comedy). As to be expected the airline issue earphones had two settings: loud enough to get a massive headache and quiet enough to hear everything going on around me. I chose the quiet enough to hear everything going on around me setting. And thank goodness.

About twenty minutes into the movie and about three hours in our flight, an older gentleman sitting just one row back from me started to have some sort of breathing and/or heart issue. I only noticed because I heard a half-whispered, half-statement of “Help” from a weak female voice. The call for help was respectful, decent, and the all holy “well behaved”. It was just loud enough to carry across a few seats. Yet as quiet as the voice was, it carried an undertone of panic and fear. Otherwise, the very small group of people wouldn’t have turned around to look at its source; one of those people was me.

I‘m not a doctor - obviously - but the gentleman sitting next to the well behaved passenger did not look good. His skin was pale, almost grey. It was that shade of grey is described in many books, especially those written in the late 1800s with an ailing heroine. It was also the color I saw in my papa’s face in the days leading up to his death. It wasn’t a healthy color and it was obvious that this guy was not in a healthy moment. It was also obvious that Ms. Well-Raised wasn’t going to get the help that was required. The man looked as if he could die - no exaggeration - and a polite call for help wasn’t what he needed.

Without much thought, I turned around to face forward into the cabin and channeled my inner cheerleader, my inner Sue Sylvester, opened my mouth, filled my lungs, and powered out the call to action, “HELP!”

A number of people turned but no one moved; I knocked it up another level and yelled out another “HELP!”

Suddenly it was as if the cabin had been rocked: passengers stood up, turned around, and stared. Air stewards sped in our direction. Soon the man was surround by professionals and breathing from some sort of tank with his shirt unbuttoned. Within minutes a very calm - but also very loud - announcement went out for a medical professional, which was answered by a calm, yet loud professional who gave short, clear directives for care.

The obviously extremely ill man was taken to the back of the cabin - one row away - and a few hours later he returned to his seat, still obviously not doing well. The heat of the moment passed and the doctor as well as the stewards continued to monitor him. Upon leaving the plane he was more than weak and was carefully taken off to customs.

The experience was scary. We were up in the air, far enough into the journey not to turn around but very far away from our destination. I don’t know how these things work and really it didn’t matter because the man looked like he was going to die. Going. To. Die. That is just scary. And it isn’t the kind of scary in with manners matter.

For me what was the scariest about the whole experience was not that the man was obviously ill. It wasn’t that we were in a plane, although that didn’t make it pleasant. What scared and scares the shit out of me is that the person next to him seemed to put being well behaved above getting a fellow human being help. I’m positive the man would have gotten help with my call or not. Sure, maybe fewer people would have realized what was happening. Maybe no one would have stared. Maybe a call for a medical professional could have been done in a less public manner. Maybe the entire experience would have been less embarrassing and less public. Maybe it would have ended just as well.


In cases like these, I suggest not doing the “maybe“. I suggest skipping the lessons we all got drilled into our souls about being well behaved. Instead, I suggest you get loud. Then you stay loud until the danger has passed. Sure, be calm if you can - I wasn’t - but be loud. With capital letters: LOUD. Make a scene because if you are calling for help, if you feel that you are in danger, what you need is noise and a scene.


If you think that you will hesitate when that moment comes, if you think that you will limit yourself or be limited by being “well behaved” when the moment comes, start practicing. Start being loud when you don’t need to be. Practice yelling “help!” and making a scene. There is a reason why this is the first lesson in every self-defense course out there. It is critically, crucially, life-saving important that you are LOUD.

So don’t worry about being a fool or looking like a fool or making a mistake or pissing people off or getting stared at or anything of those foolish limitations: practice being loud. It might save a life, and that life might be yours.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good for you for stepping in and calling out for help! Sounded scary. So glad I wasn't on that flight. It scares me to have to respond to medical emergencies, but I always feel obligated to because of my profession. Hope the rest of your trip goes well! - Lucy

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