Re: The ultimate faux pas.

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Wow, I'm plagued by the notion that the previous post is terribly boring and sappy.

Jeez, Heebie. You can do little or no wrong. Relax.

As she threw them she screamed "Here they are Dave! That's all I've got! I hope you're happy Dave! This is the ultimate faux pas of friendship!"
Sometimes you just keep trying, I guess.

max
['There's one of those one-subject books in this, isn't there? Food Stamps: Life or Death.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 11:43 AM
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This is a great story.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 11:48 AM
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I'm plagued by the notion that the previous post is terribly boring and sappy.

The ultimate faux pas of heebie-bloggieship.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 11:58 AM
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I'm very grateful for both posts.

I'm thinking the cashier knife story can be used to illustrate something about the bystander effect, but its all so weird.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 12:00 PM
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Oh, thanks all. I do feel a very real obligation to do right by Unfogged, since I've been given a community of such great readers which I didn't build up myself.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 12:16 PM
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4: The great thing about that story isn't so much that it's weird - it's that it should be weird, but really isn't. I believe every word of it.

Now Kitty Genovese, that's weird.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 12:20 PM
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Thing is, with Kitty Genovese, you can attribute the bystanders actions to selfishness. They weren't willing to even lift a finger for someone else. That wasn't really what was happening, but that is the way it looks to, for instance, students.

In this case, people aren't willing to break their routine even to protect *themselves.* This lets you know that what is really going on isn't selfishness but an unwillingness to acknowledge the out of the ordinary, the urge to copy the people around you, etc.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 12:34 PM
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Here's another.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 3:19 PM
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I'm a little dubious about that one, frankly.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 3:21 PM
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I've read recently that the Kitty Genovese assault moved a lot -- several blocks -- so that a fair number of people heard something and went to check, but there was nothing to see when they got to the window. This seems hard to do, but if true, less dispiriting about human nature.

Dunno where.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 4:25 PM
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10: The Wikipedia article has the timeline of events. The attacks took place over half an hour, and while they weren't spaced out over several blocks, after the first attack Genovese went from the front of her apartment complex to the back (trying to get in), away from the people who'd seen the initial attack. Nobody saw the entire sequence of events from start to finish.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 4:46 PM
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Also she had it coming.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 5:09 PM
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12: Uh, was that directed at me?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 5:19 PM
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I'm not sure the original story strikes me as funny so much as sad. The reactions of the other store staff and the customers as described seem more resigned or hopeless than anything else.

That may be a comment on the venue, of course. I've definitely observed differences in the threshold for the "outrage factor" in affluent versus poor neighborhoods (and no, that doesn't mean rich people overreact while poor people are blasé). Rather, people in general are constantly performing internal calculations and assessments about what is going on, what the risk is to them and others, and how best to address that risk. Those assessments are strongly affected by past experiences.

The fact that a person doesn't take the action that someone else thinks is "natural" doesn't mean that they failed to accurately note what was happening, or that they didn't understand the risk. It means they came to a different conclusion about "How best to address that risk."

Goodness knows I thought "Call the police" was the right response to a larger subset of issues when I was 20 than I did by the time I was 30. And while I've gotten progressively more strident and willing to trust my own judgment even if other people are likely to think I'm foolish, I've also gained a healthy respect for interfering and making things worse.

Case one: Small children who are clearly being verbally abused by their father. Neighbor has already reported to Child Protective Services and there was apparently no response. Other onlooker is confused about how best to proceed. Is mother participating? Is abuse physical as well? Would reporting it again do anything other than cause the father to come down harder on the kids? Do scandals in the local foster care system indicate that wrenching these kids away from their biological family would do more harm than good?

Case two: Obviously mentally ill man staggering around in public. Loud inflammatory claims being made, could be interpreted as threats. Man appears to be a far greater danger to self than anyone else. Local police have dismal track record in dealing with people with mental illness; recent incidents include killing a man who had no recognizable weapon and posed no apparent or even alleged threat (besides unpredictability/antisocial affect).

Shorter me: Yeah, it seems crazy not to react powerfully when a man with a knife is running around. It may even be crazy. But it's not necessarily irrational.


Posted by: ttiW | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 5:41 PM
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Sorry, that should be "I've also gained a healthy respect for how interfering can make things worse.


Posted by: ttiW | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 5:43 PM
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"


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 5:43 PM
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Starting fires solves everything.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 5:44 PM
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I'd have shot the guy just to see if dying in L.A. is observably different from dying in Reno.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 5:46 PM
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I wonder how much of the non-response was based on the vagueness of the initial claim? I was a temp cashier for a few weeks at a K-mar/ that is widely reputed to be the site of all sorts of iniquity and perfidy. One day I came in and the mood was palpably tense and on-edge. I found out almost immediately that the previous night, a fellow had shot his hand into a cashier's till as he stood in the adjacent line and made off with a hundred dollars or so. Let me tell you, people did not display any ambiguity in their response to that. Everybody had immediately freaked out when it was happening, and then the management went into lockdown mode for the next couple of days. But that was the situation they were always expecting, not the surreal expression of madness and desire that Grizzly Adams-with-a-knife-wanting-foodstamps would have been.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 6:02 PM
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Shooting their hand into the till? Ick. Messy.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 6:50 PM
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14: I've also gained a healthy respect for how interfering can make things worse.

Absolutely.

The outcome of the story about knife-wielding-man makes it sound as though people reacted more or less appropriately.

I must start this again:

14 gets it right, though I'm not sure about how sad, resigned or hopeless it is. It's a function of economic and social class, or community: people have different ways of addressing things.

This afternoon as I took a break out back from the bookshop -- all the businesses on our block function out back (we park out back, come and go from there, and it is a broad alley crossroads), and many other people in the neighborhood come and go that way -- I saw that a man who'd presumably been going to the store or something via the alley had a little child (3 year old?) on his hands who was crying and wailing now.

The man was sitting on the ground holding the boy, not very successful with the consoling and shushing, and he was sitting right next to a row of garbage cans (garbage always overflows, and yes there are rats around, and people dump garbage, and litter). There were several other people passing by and through, and there was yelling going on.

I heard the man yell, "Well, when you have one of these, you tell me what to do, woman!" The lady passerby he was addressing yelled back, "That's what I'm saying: there are germs there! Get up and take him to sit down some place proper!"

A few people were pausing and commenting on the situation, and it sounded like there were some Get Outta My Face's and some Oh Yeah?! Oh Yeah?! types of things said. The guy who works at the housing support center next door was standing out back, watching and smoking and shaking his head. (He was monitoring the situation. I was, duh, not going to get involved; I'm a white woman.)

I've tired of this story. The guy got up from next the filthy rat-ridden garbage cans, with his kid, and walked off cooing reassuringly to the boy. Problem solved. With lots of yelling and neighborly advice and attendance.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 8:13 PM
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While I was reading the link, I was sure the story was going to end up being some sort of Halloween joke. It turned out not to be. (I think?)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 8:27 PM
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I hope it's ok for me to jump in here. (I'm the one who wrote the story.) The whole thing happened just the way I wrote it but I didn't really have the words to properly convey how truly bizarre the whole incident was. I think part of the reason people didn't react is that the whole thing happened really quickly. I'm also not sure people know how seriously to take the whole thing. I mean, the people came in yelling about a guy with a knife and then they ... went shopping? All three people inolved in the incident were acting so odd that even with it all taking place right in front of you it was a little hard to comprehend.


Posted by: Jen | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 10:27 PM
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I hope it's ok for me to jump in here.

Certainly. You are most welcome (Although I suspect none of the blog officialdom are around at the moment.)

and then they ... went shopping?

When I read it I did wonder how much that contributed to the reactions of everyone else.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 10:49 PM
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the people came in yelling about a guy with a knife and then they ... went shopping?

I assume they were trying to lay low and trying to blend into the crowd, so as not to be noticed by knife-guy, aka Dave. I doubt they were really shopping (unless they actually had some shopping to do, and figured, well, why not, Dave might figure out that he's acting really weird and stupid in this context).


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-31-09 11:05 PM
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Huh. Is my computer showing the right time? Surely it didn't already pass 2 AM for the second time here?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 12:08 AM
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Fun with time changes! I wrote 26 after reading 28. (And also got an error message about "too many comments in a short time period", or something. Where are they?) But hasn't the time not changed in the quasi-Mountain time zone where Unfogged resides?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 12:17 AM
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13: Yes, but it was an experiment in poor taste. There have been others.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 12:40 AM
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It has to be said that the time has officially changed, so it shouldn't really be bar close yet.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 12:54 AM
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Fuck. Now they've got the didgeridoo going.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 12:56 AM
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Still about 45 minutes until it's 15 minutes ago over here.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 1:00 AM
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I was in Copley Square in Boston and some guy started beating a homeless-looking guy on a bench with a cane. The guy next to me just sort of thought that it was odd. My BF and I called the police who came quite promptly.

I'm not trying to tout his or my horn, but it's not hard to call with a cell phone, and I don't think anyone else was even paying attention.

So, you know, human nature....still depressing.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 5:37 AM
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That's what some kids in Woburn seem to think. They like to come by the Y and start fires in the parking lot.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 5:40 AM
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I'm not sure the original story strikes me as funny so much as sad. The reactions of the other store staff and the customers as described seem more resigned or hopeless than anything else.

14 gets it right, though I'm not sure about how sad, resigned or hopeless it is. It's a function of economic and social class, or community: people have different ways of addressing things.

It's funny that the woman says "This is the ultimate faux pas of friendship!", you killjoys.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 2:17 PM
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Oh dear, have we committed the ultimate faux pas of commentariatship?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 2:55 PM
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The ultimate every pas of contrarianship has been committed.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 3:07 PM
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If I told you I had an obsidian knife, would you hold it against my friendship?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 3:16 PM
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It's funny that the woman says "This is the ultimate faux pas of friendship!", you killjoys.

I know; it's incongruous and ridiculous. I do understand the weird mix of giddiness, relief, and surreality that led Jen and the police officer taking her statement to get the giggles. If I'd been there I might have had the same reaction.

But from a distance, on paper screen, laughing at that story felt kind of like being around my cousins when they're laughing at the people featured on Cops. Not nice.

Also, OT: Bob McManus's fraternal twin spotted.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 6:53 PM
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But from a distance, on paper screen, laughing at that story felt kind of like being around my cousins when they're laughing at the people featured on Cops. Not nice.

I'm not nice. Cops can be funny as hell. Where's Apo, I'm pretty sure he's a Cops fan.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 10:08 PM
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I've never seen anything on that TV show that was anything other than tragic. Cheaters, likewise.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 10:10 PM
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Always blow on the pie.


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 10:38 PM
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The outcome of the story about knife-wielding-man makes it sound as though people reacted more or less appropriately.

Dumb luck saves people all the time. Get the hell out of there when knife wielding psychos come into your store.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 10:43 PM
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Safer communities together.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 10:46 PM
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The community that runs out of the store together, stays together.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 1-09 10:49 PM
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Cops can be funny as hell.

Oh yes, it definitely can be. I haven't seen it in many years, but I had roommates in college that watched it regularly.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 2-09 5:20 PM
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