Summary: Fear makes us react automatically in extreme situations. It is insightful to understand how this wiring can affect our everyday decision making.
My first job was at a coffee shop in the neighboring city. I was so excited for my first job that I did not mind the 50 minute commute each way.
Unfortunately, there was no local bus that would drop me directly in-front of my workplace. Thus, I would catch a bus from near my house and sit on it till its very last station. From here I would walk approximately 1.5 kilometers to the bakery. Sometimes, when bus arrived early, I would walk around the station to kill a few minutes.
The bus was busy upon boarding, however, as it drove closer to its very last station it people left one by one. Usually I was the only person on it when the it stopped in its last station.
Given this ritual of mine, over a few months, the bus driver and I became acquainted. After, I got off the bus he would lock the bus and take a 15 minute snack break before resuming. He soon realized that I would sit out in hot weather after departing the bus, thus, he allowed me to stay inside the bus while he went for his break.
Sitting inside the bus with air-conditioning was pleasant. When the bus driver returned, I would hop off and begin walking to the coffee shop.
However, on a very regular day, while waiting alone in the bus for the driver to come back from his break, I noticed a tall strong man hovering around the bus a few times.
Before I could understand the situation, he shoved his had through the bus door and through the rubber between the doors. He then pushed open the door manually.
The bus did not feel so big once he was inside the bus. He stood in-front while I sat in the back frozen in fright.
“You did not see anything. Okay!?”, said the man aggressively.
Before I could even process my response, “Yes! I understand. Don’t Worry” spat out of my mouth.
For next, few minutes he shoved around the bus driver’s seat to find something valuable. I was too frightened to observe the act, thus, I looked away out the window.
He never asked me to hand over my valuables, and quickly left the bus within few minutes.
I just sat there stiffly trying to articulate what had happened until the driver returned.
Did he just steal something of the bus driver? Should I tell the bus driver? Is he watching me? Will he follow me to the coffee shop?
The bus driver returned and I left the bus to walk to my coffee shop quietly.
The whole night, I could barely sleep. The thought of betraying a friend who provided me with shelter in his bus haunted me.
You may say that I could have reacted differently to ensure my bus driver friend’s safety. However, I am very thankful that no one was hurt because the next day I greeted the same bus driver and was relieved to see the same smile on his face 🙂
- We are designed to react automatically in fear. (i-e my reply to the man)
- We tend to choose the least risky option. (i-e me staying quiet about it)
- Our subconscious knows and reacts before our conscious catches up. (i-e frozen in fright)