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Friday, 24 April 2015

Under Pressure

Part U in the 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge

Have you ever wondered how you'd perform in an emergency situation? Whether you'd spring into action and save the day, becoming a hero and getting a million hits on YouTube... or completely freeze up, standing there with a blank expression, unable to hear the person screaming at you to grab the bandages because the blood is rushing in your ears?

Back when I used to work at KFC, I was once on drive-thru and I saw a fight break out between a couple of teenagers and and oldish man. I didn't see who'd thrown the first punch - if it had been the teenagers, I would have jumped in to defend the man. If it was the man, he should know better and would have to deal with whatever happened. My manager had heard the commotion and was trying to jump out of the window to stop it, but I stood in the way - she hadn't seen the situation unfold and putting herself in harm's way might have made things worse. Eventually she left, jumped out the other window and got into the middle of it anyway, breaking them up and threatening to call the police. Both parties left, and when the manager came back inside, she was laughing and telling everyone how I'd frozen up and didn't know what to do. One of the other managers (who was a real alpha male) asked me what I was doing while the old man was being beaten up. And even the next time I came in, I had staff members asking me what had happened and why I didn't do anything.

The power of groupthink is amazing. All these people made me believe that I really had frozen up in the moment and that thought upset me. Maybe it wasn't that, maybe it was more to do with how everyone thought I'd frozen up. Either way, it affected me in a bad way.

Cut to last year in the lead-up to Christmas. I was doing my current job of handing out food samples in grocery stores. This particular day I was sampling butter but spreading it on baguettes. I'd been asked to buy a particular type of baguette for the demonstration but, not being able to find it, I grabbed the closest thing I could find, which turned out to have a very dry, flaky crust. During the shift, an old woman approached and wondered if she could eat it. She had a few health problems and wanted to make sure but, eventually satisfied, she grabbed a piece and continued shopping. Five minutes later, I got a tap on the shoulder. The old lady was back and her face looked red and puffed-out. It took me a few seconds (which is a few seconds too long) to realise she was choking.

My mind immediately jumped to water. I didn't know the Heimlich manoeuvre, so water would have to do. I looked under my demo table, but realised that I'd stupidly left my water bottle in the car. I ran out from behind the table, trying to figure out which aisle of the store the water was in. But then I saw the door that led to the back area of the store and decided that that was the ticket. By some stroke of luck, the first thing I saw when I burst through the double-doors into the warehouse-like back area was a large stack of water bottles, wrapped up in packs of 24 and piled up higher than my head. I ran over, reached to the layer and tore open the plastic wrapping. I snapped the seal on the bottle and opened the lid as I ran back into the store to find the old lady breathing deeply, a stranger rubbing her back and a disgusting glob of I-don't-even-want-to-know on the ground. Despite the danger being passed, she grabbed the bottle I was holding with gratitude and downed half the bottle in one go. She assured me that she'd pay for the bottle (thinking that I worked there) and left, leaving the horrifying glob behind.

I felt pretty good about myself at that point. Not only had a woman been saved from choking to death, but I'd proven to myself that I can think clearly under pressure. I walked into the back again where a staff member was rearranging some stock.
'Hey mate. I just need to let you know there was a lady choking out on the floor, so I grabbed one of the bottles of water from over there to help her out.' To my surprise, the man burst out laughing.
'That's fine mate, what was she choking on?' My face dropped as I remembered the flaky crust of the bread.
'Um... It must have been... somebody else's samples...'

24 comments:

  1. If you're expected to break up fights when you work for KFC they should arm you with a taser. Personally, I'd put a bouncer in every fast food joint!

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    1. Yeah, how could they really expect me to care?

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  2. None of us know how we'd react in these situations until we find ourselves in them. Don't be hard on yourself.

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    1. Ah well now that this other situation has happened, I know that I was thinking clearly. I'm fine about it now :)

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  3. When the time comes, if it should, that is sure when we find out.

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    1. You kinda hope you never have to find out, but you also kind of want to :P

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  4. The term, "horrifying glob" made me laugh out loud! :D I think you handled the fight just fine. Like you said you didn't know why they were fighting or who started the fight. If you had gotten in the middle of it, you might have been hurt as well.

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    1. Didn't stop my boss though, she just barrelled into it :P

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  5. I think you reacted in an appropriate manner. If you don't know the maneuver, don't try it on a choking victim, as you could seriously injure them.
    And jumping into the middle of the fight is a good way to get injured.

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    1. Yeah, it's a shame you get looked down on for thinking that :P

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  6. good story and it sounds like you cared and did the right thing. I always figured I was a freeze up person. My husband is very resourceful - he could McIver any situation. You just never know and another situation could arise where you'd act to perfection.

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    1. Well at least one of you fills that role. If there's ever an emergency, he'll be able to take charge.

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  7. My youngest chokes a lot. He runs over to the trash can, coughs and spits it out. It's so gross. A boy's got to do what a boy's got to do. Kids are notorious for takes too big of bites. Maybe that's what the lady did - take too big of a bite.

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    1. As selfish as it is, that would clear my conscience :P

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  8. There will always be armchair quarterbacks, and backseat drivers...but, experience makes the man, Mike. You did well.

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    1. Often I have a fairly thin skin, so those armchair quarterbacks can get to me :P

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  9. I'm usually the level headed one when it comes to emergency situations. I sometimes wonder if I am missing my sensitivity chip because i get very aggravated when people freak out and don't know what to do. My mom was in a panic mode a few years back and started flipping out crying on a pawn store manager (her mom's wedding ring got stolen and pawned off there). Trying to get a hold of the situation, I ended up telling her to just shut and and let me talk. Now, I am not ever that rude to my mom, but the situation needed handled in a professional manner, and her hysterics were ridiculous. I couldn't be a 911 operator because I'd probably be the meanest one out there.

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    1. That's interesting, does being abrupt with people get the job done? Did your mum calm down? How did you know the ring was sold there? Did she get it back? I love the idea of a guy being chased by an attacker calling 911 and you on the other end shouting "Dude shut up, we're getting there as fast as we can!" ;)

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  10. MICHAEL ~
    Back when I was 14 or 15, I was attending the Police Explorer Academy. One day I came home from the Academy and was yakking with my Ma when we heard some glass break downstairs. She told me, "Go see what your Brother just broke."

    So, as I started down the stairs, here comes my brother, Nappy, up the stairs toward me. Imagine turning your garden hose up full blast and then putting your thumb over the end of it. That's exactly how the blood looked shooting out of my Brother's arm, and spraying the walls and everything. I never saw so much blood in my life.

    He and a friend had been playing 'Birdie Ball' - a form of baseball we'd invented using a small, wooden souvenir baseball bat and a badminton birdie. Nappy had run backwards to try catching a fly that his buddy had hit and he'd put his arm back to brace himself, and that arm had gone right through my bedroom window, slicing his artery in half.

    My first reaction was to turn around and run straight out the front door, screaming in the middle of our street. That's what I did. But after a few moments of that, my mind started to work again, and I realized I had to get back in the house and see what I could do.

    Fortunately, at the Police Explorer Academy I had recently learned some medical emergency techniques including how to apply a tourniquet. I didn't do it all correctly - and had to make do with whatever was in the bathroom (which is where Nappy ran to and slumped to the floor) - but I used a towel and managed to do a good enough job that it saved my Brother's life. The paramedics who showed up later said that he surely would have bled to death before they got there had it not been for my makeshift tourniquet.

    So, yeah, you just don't know how you'll do until you find yourself in the situation. I almost failed that test, because my first instinct was to run away from the scene: If you can't see it, it can't really be happening, right? But after those first several moments of utter shock wore off, I managed to pull myself together enough to save Nappy's life.

    Tell ya what though, he has a massive scar that runs from his armpit to the bend in his elbow, and we were still finding little spots of blood in places two or three decades later.

    I did OK, but - damn - I sure don't want to get tested like that ever again!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. Wow, I hope you never do either. That's an incredible story. But I think if it ever was to happen again, you'd do even better because you've been in that situation before. You wouldn't have that initial freak-out. Blood freaks me right out, so I probably would have been useless in that situation :P

      When I was 12, I put my fist through a school window. My fist reaction was shock that it had happened, then it turned to horror as I blankly looked down at my hand and saw a gash across my wrist that was so big that some of my fat was sticking out. I was ridiculously calm as I walked to the office, stepped into the first-aid room and turned on the tap to start washing the blood away. Then a staff member spotted me and patched it up as best she could so that I could get to the hospital and get it stitched up. It was in the car on the way to the hospital that the situation finally hit me and I started bawling like a baby.

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  11. Geeze, you save someone's life and the person you report it to asks an astute question. Everyone's a critic!
    Good work, mate, I say.

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  12. Everyone freezes up at one point or another. You went out of your way to help that lady, which shows how far you've come from the KFC episode. I froze up a few times when my kids were little, but I've learned a lot since then.

    Julie

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    1. Yeah probably the more situations you're in, the better you'll be at it.

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