Oct 17, 2013

People Watching, An Ethics Experiment in the Making?

So every week, my family walks on the sabbath to synagogue.  We don't drive.  At the end of services, we put our kids in the double stroller and walk over a mile to get home.  Inevitably, one or both of the kids falls asleep during the walk home.  Our flat in San Francisco has no porch and a steep set of stairs that is too high to consider lifting the filled stroller to our door.

If we take the kids out of the stroller, they wake up and don't get another nap that day.  Then *WE* don't get a nap either.  :(  So, we do the only reasonable thing when the weather permits it...we leave the sleeping kids in the stroller on the sidewalk next to a tree and watch them from the steps.

It is actually a nice experience.  A snack, a beer after the long walk, and book.  It is not a real chore to do it.
But over the months, I have noticed a funny phenomenon:  Most people don't stop and notice.  We have two adorable kids who usually slump down in that cute way that kids do when they sleep in a stroller. You might think that people walking by would stop and take a gander at my kids.

The funny thing is that the steps that I sit on have shadows and a gate so that to see me, you have to really look. This means that my kids seem to be abandoned/forgotten/unsupervised on the relatively busy sidewalk.

We have not taken notes on this because we don't write on the sabbath, but here are my observations for most typical days (estimated):

Out of every 50 pedestrians...
-1 will stop, look at the kids, search around until they see me on the steps and have an interaction with me.
-3 will see me first, nod to me, then see the kids and smile.
-5 will see the kids, look at them, never glance in my direction, and move on as if leaving sleeping kids by themselves on the street is no concern.
-1 will see the kids, walk on, then turn around 20 seconds later and come back looking for me.
-40 will walk on oblivious and sometimes making so much noise as to almost walk my kids.

I don't know if I am bothered more by the ones who walk on leaving the kids seemingly unattended or by the majority who don't notice a thing.

There has only once been a person who started to actually call for help before they saw me.  She was probably about 15 years old.  She thought it was really funny when she realized that I was there.

Last week, I saw the same couple walk by THREE TIMES before they noticed the sleeping angels.  These people seemed especially oblivious and they spoke with voices that were unreasonably loud-- as if they were talking with someone across the street even though the were right next to each other.  After they finally noticed the kids, they never modulated their volume.

People are interesting.

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