Friday, June 04, 2010

Who is in the wrong? The other side of the coin

The most viewed story in The Star today is about the apathy of two petrol kiosk attendants, resulting in the indirect death of an accident victim. Read the whole story here.

To summarise, the kiosk attendants refused to lend out their fire extinguishers to a good Samaritan who desperately need it to rescue a girl trapped in a burning vehicle. Due to their actions, the girl was subsequently burnt to death.

It is not hard to predict some minister will speak up and condemn the attitude of the two attendants tomorrow and announce some form of retributions. In fact, netizens are already condemning them online. They are, without doubt, the villains in the news.

But will they actually analyse what is actually the root of the problem? Are the petrol kiosk attendants solely to blame? Or the kiosk owner who set the instructions “not to open the door after hours”? Or the thieves who frequently target these petrol stations, making the attendants suspicious to any claims or pleads?

My two cent’s worth on this is that this incident can be primarily attributed to a failure of communication – and with that, a failure to understand human nature on the part of the good Samaritan. It may sound nasty to be condemning a person trying to do the right thing, but we need to be level-headed here.

These are excerpts from his personal note about the incident, being posted on Facebook. You can feel his anger in the first line: FUCK BHP!!!!! FUCK BHP!!!

“then i shout at him, i need it! i want it! someone is pinned inside the car and its started to burn!”

“then i started to amuk kicking the kiosk and punching the glass of the kiosk.”

“Then i start shouting and yelling at them with bad words saying dat if the girl dies you two are the murderer.”

Predictably, “then the 2nd BHP attendant shout back at me.”

As pharmacists, we know that the first rule in dealing with an angry customer is don’t lose your cool at him. Getting angry with him would only make the situation worse. No one will cooperate and nothing will be done if both sides are angry and involve in a shouting match. I know the situation was desperate, but being angry will make it worse. Anger is a primitive action that will throw all reasons and rhymes out of the window. Our mind shut down. We are focused solely on who can shout louder and not on how we can reach a solution.

The good Samaritan also failed to see things from the viewpoint of the kiosk attendants. Remember the “boy who cried wolf?” They may have previous experiences where similar request resulted in their kiosk being robbed. They may have a boss who is fierce and lack understanding. Those who worked the midnight shift usually are sole breadwinners of their house and have hungry mouths to feed. They won’t risk a sacking for a tale they can’t verify as true when their family’s survival depends on them. He didn’t search for the primary reason for their refusal.

What the Good Samaritan should had done is to calmly reason with the attendant. He should had tried address their need, to allay their fears. It was also reported that “the attendant cannot see the fire.” As seeing is believing, he should have led the attendants to a vantage where the accident can be seen.  They will surely be more willing to help if they themselves can see the incident.

Perhaps this can be a lesson on human behaviour for the good Samaritan and all of us. A lot of people will scoffed that this is an emergency and that we have no time to think straight in one.  However, understanding human nature and learning how to adapt and response to reach a favourable conclusion is what we should had practiced everyday. By the time an emergency happens, it should had been a second nature.

The Good Samaritan should be commended for doing the right thing. The only regret is that if only he had done it the right way, the outcome just might had been different.


changyang1230 said...

While I agree that everything must have spiraled downward from the beginning of their angry exchange, I personally think that the kiosk workers are more at fault for failing *in the first instance* to recognise someone who's genuinely and presumably frantically looking for help. Instead they resorted to "standard operating procedure" in denying access to the extinguisher.

This is the best example of why practical wisdom should sometimes overrule guidelines.

But seriously, can a frantic request for extinguisher *really* be mistaken for a disguised robbery attempt?! I would have thought that a more efficient way to rob is just to pretend you are buying a snack and then flash a weapon or something, instead of pretending to borrow something behind their cupboard.

Chu Jie said...

geeeezz~ that happened?? craaap