It was a night much like any other. Pitch-black from the lack of streetlights, not much traffic. I was driving from my apartment in La Bonita with my girlfriend, Irene, when we ran into a sudden traffic jam.

With traffic in Caracas, it’s never normal. There’s always a thing. Someone’s car broke down, someone crashed, some brilliant mayor decided to have the street re-paved at rush hour. I couldn’t see what was causing this particular jam, and I was even ready to take a U-turn back when I saw some card moving, turning right to avoid something.

Exactly what they were avoiding wasn’t clear until we got closer. And then I saw it.

Two motorizados on the floor, one of them -—the parrillero— with the bike on top of him, the other scrambling to get to his feet. No car seemed to have hit them. Maybe it was a hit-and-run.

The two men were quite alone. When I got close enough, I saw a lot of blood. I said something to Irene, which I can’t remember, and she asked me: “well, what should we do?”. “We should really stop”, I answered.

She was scared. It was night time, and these were two strangers on a motorbike. Before we’d made up our minds, we were past the accident. I was uneasy.

“What can we do?” she asked.

“We can stop.”

“Fine, fine. Let’s stop.”

I turned the car around. One of the two stumbled as he tried to get up. The other was motionless. Conscious, but still. I put on the blinkers and stopped the car on the side of the road. Irene locked herself in and shifted over to the driver’s seat. I walked to the motorizados.

It was cold; a light drizzle dampened the road and my skin. A knot twisted my stomach. I was terrified, something felt wrong. I approached them while the driver was getting the bike back up. It wasn’t just a lot of blood, it was too much. The driver’s clothes were drenched in it and his parrillero, still on the ground, was covered head to toe. His forehead was still bleeding profusely. I had the distinct notion that this man was going to die.

The driver started to try and get him up. I’m no doctor, but I do have first aid and CPR training, and I didn’t think he should be standing quite yet. Next to the street was a little futbolito court, and the men who had been playing were watching the sight. One of them yelled to me “an ambulance is on its way”.

I thought the best thing to do was to try and stop the bleeding, clean him up a little, and wait for the paramedics. His friend disagreed. He neither spoke to me nor responded when I spoke, he just went on with his task of getting his partner up.

I pleaded.

“Just let him lay down, wait for the ambulance, he’s in no state to ride”. He looked at me with hollow eyes. Maybe it was shock, maybe he was on something. Maybe both. My words didn’t seem to register.

He finally got his friend off the ground, and immediately he started to stumble. I grabbed him. He, at least, was more talkative. He kept mumbling “abrázame, varón”.

“Hang on to me, big guy”.

I held him up while I insisted to the driver that we should wait for an ambulance. No dice. He got on the bike and helped his parrillero back up too. I helped him grab on. They rode off.

I was still petrified. I was standing alone in a puddle of blood in the middle of the street at night. I walked back to the car and prayed to God they made it to an ambulatorio before it was too late. I got back in. Irene gave a little gasp: “look at yourself”. My hands and forearms were drenched in blood. She gave me some wet wipes and I got it off while I drove. Not fifteen seconds after we left, the ambulance rode right past the spot. We chased it and told them what happened. They thanked us and went off to chase the motorizados. We went on out merry way.

At least two hundred people must have passed that spot while they were on the floor. They rolled down their windows, they stopped for a second to look. They made eye contact with me. They drove on.

This isn’t so rare, though. It’s called the Bystander Effect, and it happens all around the world. Everyone assumes someone else will help, so no one does.

I’m not a sociologist or a social psychologist. I can’t tell you exactly what was at play that night. I can only tell you what I felt.

I was scared the whole time. I was thinking I might get robbed, I might get kidnapped, I might get killed. I went as far as to think it might have been a set up. I’m paranoid, but I know only the paranoid survive.

It’s scary to see these things. It’s scary to stop. It’s scary to help.

It’s a scary country.

20 COMMENTS

  1. You were lucky. When night falls in Venezuela, everything/one is scary. Most stay indoors, locked up tight. Things that go bump in the night, particularly motorizados, are frequently up to no good. Last night, a gun shot rang out at 11 pm, nearby, followed by intermittent shotgun blasts, a block or two away, during 2 hours, with one of my dogs barking unusually/continuously–the cause, just another home invasion, by one of the several neighborhood ski-masked gangs, with no local police presence, of course….

    • “one of several neighborhood ski-masked gangs”

      Terrifying. Do most people in venezuela just live with high stress and anxiety levels at all times? That has to manifest itself into physical ailments over the years.

  2. You did what the vast majority of people, operating under similar fears, would not do. I guess the question for people who study human behavior would be: what made you do it?

  3. Good Samaritans will appear where helping others in a hard spot doesnt put them too much out of their comfort zone , they might call an ambulance but few will totally stop what they’re doing and assist the victim directly , it has to be something really dramatic to motivate the passer by to stop and take personal action in helping the victim…….., studies have been made with divinity students rushing to give a supposed lecture and finding a person (planted) laid down on the walk leading to the lecture hall , most just gave a cursory look and didnt stop ……..I fear that many of the nicer emotions we declare are largely fake, in that even if our minds registers them as good and desirable , they are incapable of moving us to sacrificing a bit of effort to act as per their command..

    What I find intriguing is the two motorcyclyst desperate attempts to rush from the scene of their accident, their rebuff of your kindly attentions, have you considered the possibility that they might have wanted to avoid any contact with police authorities ?? that they might have a reason why they didnt want to attract too much attention to themselves??

  4. “It’s scary to see these things. It’s scary to stop. It’s scary to help. It’s a scary country.”

    It’s scary because the civilians don’t have guns.

    Had you left the car with a concealed gun after giving another one to the woman waiting in the car, the situation would be far less scary. But hey, they want regular people in constant fear, that’s a major part of their plan.

    • Sorry, Marc… if you need a gun to not feel scared, you shouldn’t carry one. If you are in a scary place, you should stay scared and alert, regardless of how you are armed.

      • Not only that, Roy, but many times it’s the gun owner that gets killed with his own gun because you feel like you might be able to do something with it to “save the day”.

        One day I was standing outside our factory walls in Guarenas on a Friday afternoon.

        Two dudes walk up at go to the guard at the entrance and whip out their .44 long barrels.

        They were there for the night & weekend payroll (at the time, by law, cash was the only way you could legally pay non managerial workers).

        I stood there with my 9mm. Glock in the back of my pants under my shirt and wondered about a few things……

        One of the guys pointed his .44 at me and told me to be cool, that all would be alright.

        If he’d bothered to run his hands along my waistline, I would not be writing this I’m sure.

        Once they had the loot, they calmly walked away, their backs to me.

        Had I done what I felt like doing, I probably would have spent some time in jail, and might not be writing this either given how Venezuelan jails were (and still are).

        That was the last time I carried the gun on me at all times.

      • Don’t get me wrong here. I am actually in favor of an armed society. But, with arms in the hands of people who have actually been trained in how and when to use them. Arms in the hands of the inexperienced are a danger to everyone, including themselves.

  5. Maybe I’m speaking out of ignorance here but I don’t think it’s fair to blame it 100% on bystander effect. Here in Venezuela the game is completely different. There are countless of logical reasons for people to not stop and help other people not necesarily tied to what’s normally a bystander effect, I don’t feel thinkin that someone else proably will help them would be up high in the list of thoughts for the average Venezuelan in that situation. Could’ve been a set up for kidnapping (there’s been worse setups), there could be malandros praying around that accident. malandros could pass by and jump at you, etc. Also, the fact that an ambulance was on its way means that someone -did- something, as small as it may have been.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think what you did was admirable and you’re a great person but the fact is that you got lucky nothing bad happened. That, for me is more sad than people not helping.

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