A Travellerspoint blog

The Train - Kumming - Guilin (China)

In an emergency make sure you do nothing!

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I've lived in China for 4 years and in that time have observed many a road accident and the occasional street fight (however the later is far more unlikely, unlike a Friday night in the UK where its's almost guaranteed). In fact it was less than a week ago I had to weave around a body in the middle of the road on my motorbike. The scene was awash with onlookers (most Chinese tourists) as the police casually took notes in relation to the position of the wreckage, the whole process took about 20 minutes and then the body was removed.
I thought to myself if I had been there a few minutes earlier and witnessed the accident how much trouble I would have been in. Like most westerners (maybe we watched too many superman movies) we feel the need to help, that in a responsible society someone needs to step up and be the hero and when your a man in your 30's there's no excuse not to. In the west you would get a pat on the back maybe a news article speaking of your heroics in your local paper but in China it could be quite the opposite where you end up responsible for the people your helping and I'll tell you why:
I Was returning to Guilin from the Kumming on an overnight sleeper train. I was about 3 hours from my destination and relaxing in the food carriage when my wife drew my attention to a large crowd of people in the hard seating part of the train next to us who were all looking at the ground. At first I dismissed the scene and thought maybe people where watching a card game of something. About 10 minutes later a man dragging a rather plump Chinese woman in her 70's appeared through the crowd and made his way towards the food carriage accompanied by couple of the train staff. The man then dumped the woman's limp body on one of the seats with her head propped against the window and then occupied the seat next too her. Two train staff took the seats opposite on the other side of a dinning table fixed to the train carriage floor.
I could clearly see the old woman was distressed and struggling to breathe, her skin was very grey and she looked like she might loose consciousness. She was unable to support herself on the seat and the gentleman next to her unwilling to assist as a result her body slowly slipped down until she came to rest in a heap on the floor under the dining table. One of the train staff made a makeshift fan and began fanning her whilst the other held a phone camera filming the scene as if this action would vindicate the train staff from any responsibility and some how show them in a positive light. In my mind I couldn't understand why no one would move her into a more comfortable position and off the floor or at least support her body so she could breath more easily instead no one wanted to touch her including the gentleman that who had dragged her out of the seating carriage and I found out he was her son!
I could feel myself getting more distressed by the situation as the woman lay a meter or so away from my seat unaided and slowly getting worse. Eventually the train came to a stop at a station, I was expecting the emergency services to be waiting (after all there was plenty of time to call the station and warn them of the medical emergency on the train) but the platform was empty. As the train halted everyone looked at the old lady, it seemed no one wanted to be the one to move her. Was it because she was fat maybe it was too hot or maybe they just couldn't be bothered I thought to myself, any how it didn't matter because it was my chance to be a hero. I grabbed the woman from behind and place my arms under hers and locked my fingers together so I had a strong grip. Her son probably already in shock was now almost obligated to grab his mothers legs and assist this strange looking foreigner in carrying her body off the train. The exit to the train was a little narrow and I struggled to support the woman who's bulk which obscured my feet leaving me to blindly navigate the two steep train steps that lead to the platform, well aware that dropping her now would be more than just embarrassing but also quite dangerous. The fact that this had now turned into a large scene and all eyes were fixed on me, something I've got used to experiencing in China but have never been subjected to at this level of intensity before didn't help the situation.
As I took the first couple of steps onto the platform I could feel the heat of the afternoon sun beating down onto the dirty concrete floor. About 5 meters ahead of me lay an area of shade where I planned to put the lady and make her comfortable until medical help arrived. However her son for whatever reason decided to drop her the instant we got off the train and unable to support her weight I had to follow suit releasing her body and allowing it to come to rest in the hot sunshine. Next thing I knew I was ushered back onto the train as it started to pull away from the platform. Leaving behind the scene of a man crouched over his mothers body sobbing on a lonely train platform illuminated in the sweaty haze of the afternoon sun.
I thought, as you do; I hope she is ok but I guess I will never know and sat back down and discussed the incident with my wife. Expecting that the last few hours of my trip to pass by and soon be home.
About 30 minutes later I was approached by the captain of the train and asked to write and sign a statement which included my passport details and a version of events from my perspective. The captain then quizzed me about the condition of the woman from when I lifted her to when I placed her on the platform and if it had got worse at all. He then pointed out that if her condition had changed or she were to die in hospital then I could be responsible and would have to pay a large fine or some kind of compensation for my actions. He then went on to add that that was the reason the train staff did not act or touch the woman, he also asked me to make a note of this in my statement and praise the train company for their efforts otherwise they could also face claims for compensation.
In the end the old lady was fine and as far as I'm aware that is the end of the incident. So when I saw the motorbike accident with the dead body in the road I was relieved I wasn't the one stood next to it, trying to be a hero!
I'm not saying never help anyone in an emergency just make sure the help your giving you have been trained to provide and you are not in a situation where your decisions or actions could be interpreted as having a negative effect on someones well being because what you think is something minor could end up being blamed for causing something much more serious.

Posted by DamientheAlien 04:50 Archived in China Tagged trains culture china old lady help emergency Comments (0)

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