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...'