Posted by: Calvin | March 3, 2008

Social/Moral Dilemma #1

On my unscheduled midnight trip to Walmart last Friday, I found myself confronted with a social/moral dilemma.  I stood in line behind a guy who was nodding off – standing up – right there in line for the cash register.  He was holding his 4 items – two precooked pastry treats and 2 rolls of uncooked cinnamon rolls.  As he stood there he would slowly sink, his knees bent forward and his shoulders backward, and then startle himself awake.  The more he sank the more I would slowly back up and pretend to be interested in the latest trashy Britney tabloid.  I watched him out of the corner of my eye, sure he was going to fall asleep, then fall on me.  I quickly decided he must be “under the influence” of who knows what.  Feeling badly for jumping to conclusions, I tried to think of any other reason that this person would exhibit such behavior . . . maybe he has narcolepsy and purposely shops late at night to avoid crowds . . . and judgmental stares.  Maybe I should feel bad thinking the worst about this stranger.  I kept reading the tabloid headlines while keeping an eye on his behavior.  His turn came up, he fumbled for his money and finished his transaction, then slowly walked toward the exit – but first, he wandered into customer service, which was remarkably busy for that time of night, and then without waiting his turn, wandered out about the time I was finished with my minimal purchase.  I walked fast to my car, looking back every so often, worried that he may follow me.  Deciding that I was a bit self-centered – as if the possible narcoleptic/user even noticed me – I got in my car and locked the doors.  As I backed out of my parking space and drove toward the exit I saw him sloooooooowly walk to a car and get in the driver’s seat!  

What would you do at this point . . .

  1. Mind your own business.
  2. Say a prayer that divine intervention gets him safely to where he is going.
  3. Keep driving and get the heck out of there!
  4. Call 911.
  5. Other???


  1. I’ll call 911 with the license plate number and location of the car. He shouldn’t be driving.

    On the one hand I’d think that’s none of my business but then I’d realize that I’d be racked with guilt if I read about a deadly accident the next morning.

  2. Standing in line at WalMart at midnight would put anyone to sleep. What should he be doing…reading about J-Lo’s twins? As long as he wasn’t buying beer, he’ll be alright.

    If there is one thing I have learned from having a newborn child in the house, it is to sleep when you can! Wal Mart or not!

  3. I’d like to think that I would call 911, or alert a security guard, or some other semi-noble act. In reality, I probably would have hopped in my car and driven away before he cleared the lot, to make sure he didn’t slam into me. I most definitely would NOT have approached him directly and asked if he was okay, for fear that he would then latch onto me as the object of whatever semi-awake and/or drug-induced delusions he might have.

  4. Well, as someone who has narcolepsy i recognise his situation. If it was me i would have been getting into the car so i could have a sleep – 10 mins is enough to be alert to drive home. Or to take some medication and snooze until it kicks in. I suppose you have to use your own judgement about who is safe to approach, but i know when i’m in similar situations it’s really good to have contact with someone – even though you look ‘relaxed’, the bit of you that’s conscious is very scared. And the embarssment of having a stranger talk to you usually wakes you up!

  5. Not certain of what I would have done… Probably watched to see what happened next. If he waited, if he drove off – how was his driving… If he seemed obviously impaired, I’d have called 911 probably, assuming I had my phone with me.

    This tale reminds me of something similar from many years ago. Except the sleepy man was a school bus driver with a bus full of kids on a field trip! I noticed his head slowly going to the side, and realized he was going to fall asleep while driving. I told another teacher I was with, and we promptly sat in the seat directly behind him, and began talking with him, rather loudly and with animation, if I recall. He must have stayed awake, because we didn’t crash, but I remember being very scared seeing him ready to doze off while behind the wheel with a bus full of children. Yikes!

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