Is 3:40 enough for Toronto, or anywhere?

This post is not meant to be self-congratulatory nor illicit kudos but I am sure the cynics will think otherwise.

As we buzz about checking things off our holiday gift list, with the chorus of economic doom and gloom and bailouts in the background, let’s remember to look out for one another folks.

Recently I found myself in the middle of an unfolding event on a TTC subway platform. It is this event that is the catalyst for this post.

There were approximately 40 people on that platform Wednesday night. What disappoints me is that no one saw anything wrong or chose to ignore the distressing behaviour of the woman I saw.

May be it is second nature for me as a career reporter to keep track of my surroundings…may be it is my upbringing in a tight downtown immigrant neighbourhood…or could it be five years of living in a small Ontario town where people do indeed still make eye contact and say hello.

Whatever it is, the ratio of 1:40 for people who actually care to take action when someone needs help has left me slightly confused. May be it is enough, I cannot profess to be a pro on that subject.

Only until events began to unfold quickly on that platform, after I drew attention to the situation to the TTC ticket booth attendant, did people actually begin to notice.  He and I began to move quickly, instinctly, to help someone clearly in need and avoid a possible horrific mess. 

 Do I think others should put themselves in harm’s way to help someone else? No, ultimately it is up to an individual to decide how they can help. My gripe is that no one even noticed or cared to raise the alarm on a clearly unstable and unusual event unfolding on that platform.

I realize now, as I reach the end of this, that my math is wrong, not unusual for a career  journalist. The ratio for help from the platform is 2:40. A young girl, likely no more than 16, stepped forward right at the end to help me as I did my part. Her help was crucial because the attendant was sprinting to do his job at the end of the platform as a train was rolling into the station.

In the end, a middle-aged transit worker, a teenaged girl and sometimes burnt out writer managed to come together, in an unscripted dance, to help a stranger, a fellow citizen in need.

May be this should be good enough for a city like Toronto. A  city that is increasingly beginning to immitate and resemble the worst parts of other world class cities.

May be the final ratio of 3:40 for those willing to help, however they can, should be good enough. May be it is all we can really hope for.

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2 thoughts on “Is 3:40 enough for Toronto, or anywhere?

  1. It’s hard to say if 3:40 is enough with no information of the event. Three people helping one person is pretty significant. There becomes a point sometimes where more bodies have a diminishing return.

    That said, I do appreciate your call for more concern for those around us. Happy Holidays!

    – Schev

  2. Grant

    Thank you, Vince, for another thought provoking post. Even to this part-time cynic, it’s gratifying to know that people like you still exist. Even though you aren’t seeking a pat on the back for being a good Samaritan, you and the other two individuals who came to the aid of that woman in distress are very much deserving of one. No news story can be more unsettling and appalling than one that involves a needless tragedy happening ONLY because no one saw fit to lift a finger to help a fellow human in obvious trouble. You don’t say it, but I sense your actions on Wednesday evening most probably did prevent such a tragedy, and for that you should feel extremely pleased.

    Yes, the number of people on that subway platform who either didn’t notice, OR pretended not to notice the woman’s erratic behaviour is both bewildering and disheartening. Nowadays, it does seem that far too many of our fellow human beings are so self-absorbed they just don’t seem to give a damn about the well being of those around them. Perhaps it’s just a sign of our selfish “I’m too busy” and “I don’t want to get involved” times. The city in which I live is much smaller than Toronto, but even here I sense a cool aloofness of people towards one another. It’s almost like being in a huge room filled with people, yet feeling quite alone.

    How wonderful this season and all seasons would be if only more people would remember their humanity and actually show some concern and compassion for one another. With no fancy wrapping paper or ribbons needed, caring for others – family, friends, neighbours, and strangers alike – is the best gift that any of us can give. Many thanks again for your post. Reading it this morning has made me less cynical of the human condition.

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