Sunday, October 11, 2009

New Scripts


That's the sound that woke me up about 6:30 this morning. I knew instantly that there had been a car wreck, right in front of my house from the sound of it.

The American phrase "car crash" doesn't really fit the event. Trust me. I've been around many of them. The English get it a little better with their term "smash-up," but it's still a THUD. A large one, but a THUD nonetheless.

When I grew up, my house was on the main highway, between two rather dangerous curves. When we heard a crash, we knew just what to do. We'd go out, see if anyone was hurt, and offer to call the emergency car if they needed. We lived in the country, with neighbors that weren't all that close. If we didn't do it, who would?

So my first impulse was to get up, throw on some clothes, and see if anyone needed help. But this flower isn't in the country any more. And everyone these days has cell phones, so they probably wouldn't need someone to call the police. And at 6 a.m., tempers were likely to be a bit hot, and ever since I've moved here I've had "safety" pounded into my head. This town is known for violence, especially gun violence. Should I go and help? Or should I just stay inside? I looked outside again. Two people were standing next to the wreck, each talking on cell phones. Nah, they probably didn't need me.

By the time these thoughts went through my head (hey, I'm not at my best when awakened early in the morning from a dead sleep), I heard sirens: police, ambulance, and fire. Everything was all right, and I was off the hook.

But then I got to thinking. Sleep was out of the question, with all the sirens and voices, so the only thing I could do was to think. Am I becoming callous? Is Kitty Genovese syndrome hitting me? And if so, is it a good thing that I'm looking out for myself first? Or am I losing a bit of my compassion and humanity?

I've not worked that out yet. Any of your thoughts are welcome.

The problem that I'm facing now is new scripts. Scripts are patterns in which we behave in a social setting. When you are in a store, you stand in line. That's a script in the US. You hold open the door for someone directly behind you. And when you are the one behind, you thank the person who held the door for you. But there are some scripts that change. I've adopted a few new scripts, but I'm not sure if I have them all yet, which is one of the reasons that this is an exciting new adventure.