“Hey, did you know that if you squeeze an egg with one hand, longways, not sideways, you cannot crack it?” the boy asks, his pale blue eyes innocent and wide.
The girl is dubious, but curiosity prevails, and so she fetches an egg from the fridge. Standing over the sink, she squeezes it lengthways as instructed, her eyes squeezed half-shut in apprehension.
It doesn’t crack.
Her face transforms. Her caution becomes delight.
But just as she’s about to tell him that it’s the best thing she’s ever seen, the egg breaks. Yolk squirts between a gap in her fingers and splatters on her sundress. Eggshell pieces are glued to her hand with the sticky mix of white and yellow.
A moment passes as she considers her next move. It does not take her long to realise that she has a hand full of egg and someone she wants to punish. She locks eyes with the boy. He is taller and stronger than she is, but he has the disadvantage of not being armed with a gooey grenade.
She charges towards him, albumen dripping from her fingers, her mouth set in an fiendish smirk. Giggling, the boy hops on the spot and lunges towards the garden, making a break for it out the open glass sliding door.
Except, the door isn’t open.
And instead of his knee and forehead being the first of his body to encounter the fresh air, they are the first to make contact with the thick glass.
And instead of ending up with egg smeared on his shirt, the boy slashes his leg open, severing a tendon, forcing his kneecap up inside his thigh.
The boy’s friends stand shocked, open-mouthed, staring at the shattered glass and torn flesh.
“What do we do?” “I wish my Mum was here”. “Someone call 111!” “Who’s going to do it?” “Someone call 111, seriously!” They pace back and forth, pale-faced, talking over and over about making a phone call without anyone making a phone call.
It feels like eternity before one of the girls picks up a phone, and dials.
Reading that, you might assume they were about 10 years old, right? Maybe even younger?
This happened only last year, to my flatmates, both well into their 20s at the time. She actually believed you wouldn’t be able to crack an egg with one hand, and he didn’t bother to check if the door was open before throwing himself through it. Those events literally happened to people old enough to vote.
If he hadn’t properly injured himself, needing litres and litres of blood and a proper hospital stay, then we all would have felt much more comfortable making fun of him. As it stands, I feel guilty now, almost a year later, bringing this up again.
But it informs a story I’m about to tell you, so we needed it, for context. Sorry, Stefan.
I was the little girl – I mean, the woman – who finally picked up a phone to call an ambulance. If you’ve heard of the Bystander Effect that scenario would have sounded familiar. Basically, if you have one person witness an accident they will help, but if you have ten, they all assume the other nine will leap in, and do nothing.
Earlier this year I flew to Tauranga to spend a weekend with my mother and grandmother. We’d been to the supermarket to buy various forms of carbohydrates, my family’s gastronomic holy grail. As we neared my grandmother’s house, I saw something moving in the road.
As an overzealous passenger, who likes to narrate journeys for the driver with “oop oop!” noises when we’re getting a bit too close to another car, I enjoy any opportunity to be helpful and point out hazards. I twisted my neck to see what the object was. At first glance it looked like a budgie. Which didn’t make sense, what would a budgie be doing in the road? Wait, it really was a budgie! In the road!
I flashed back to Stefan’s knee, and the handwringing and pacing, and I knew that if we didn’t stop to save this budgie, it would get hit by a car, and it would be my fault. I pictured other people driving past, seeing the budgie, and shrugging out of apathy. I would not be one of them.
A few “oop-oop”s and my mother pulled the car over. I hopped out and strode towards the budgie, firmly resolved to be the hero this bird so desperately needed. It was only as I reached out with cupped hands that I realised I had no idea how to capture a budgie, nor what I was supposed to do with it should I manage to pick it up. I awkwardly clomped across the road, arms out in front of me, the budgie nimbly hopping away, completely uninterested.
Five minutes of futility later, and I was starting to feel embarrassed. “No, it’s a BIRD”, I overheard my mother explain to my almost-blind grandmother from the car. “She’s trying to save a BIRD”.
I decided to go door-to-door. Turns out people find the question “do you have a budgie” slightly off-putting. Asking “well, do the people next door have a budgie?” results in shocked silence. Eventually, an elderly woman said she had an cage and that she would help. Her brusque attitude made me feel that she’d handled a few naughty budgies in her time, and so at this point I decided to bow out. All I was contributing was a misplaced sense of charity and some clumsy grabby hand motions.
As I got into the car, slightly humiliated, my grandmother piped up from the back seat. “Did you save the bird, dear?” she asked. “Sort of,” I mumbled.
I mean, I called an ambulance once. That’s close enough.