DILEMMA: Would you intervene?


Would you intervene in the conversation of strangers?




Imagine this:

You’re in the lift at a London tube station, the closest you’ve ever been to being a fly on the wall in the marriage of two strangers. These are the people with whom you’re sharing the lift, a couple in their forties who think they are linguistically alone because they’re speaking Danish in England. What they don’t realise is that you are Danish and understand every word.

From the brochure in the husband’s hand you realise that their destination is The Wallace Collection, one of the most beautiful museums in London. These two ought to be excited. Except they’re not. They’re too busy discussing when – after they return from their holiday – they are going to clean their apartment.

Husband: “What about Tuesday?”

Wife: “Tuesday? Are you mad. That’s the day after we get home. There won’t be time when we’ve got all the holiday clothes to wash.”

Husband (pretending to be studying map): ‘OK. Wednesday evening?”

Wife (shakes head): “Wednesday. Yoga day?

Husband (slight grunt).

At this point the lift reaches platform level, but you’ve got to hear how this pans out so you follow them and stay close as they sit down on a platform bench.

Wife: “What was that?”

Husband: “What about Saturday?”

Wife: “Saturday? I don’t want to spend my Saturday cleaning, since when does anybody..”

And on it goes. You follow them into the tube wondering what is going to happen when he runs out of weekdays, and as the discussion is now turning into an argument you come very, very close to suggesting a cleaning lady, a divorce or just telling them to shut up and enjoy the fact that they’re going to a delightful museum. But of course you don’t.

There is no question that butting into a conversation like this one would be inappropriate. But what if it’s something less personal? What if it’s just a family standing in Hyde Park discussing the quickest route to the Albert Memorial. Or two friends in front of you at a checkout counter, trying to remember the capital of Hungary (which you happen to know because you’ve just been there on holiday).

Would you butt in? Would you start a conversation? Please use the comment section to let us know. We would love to hear from you.

One thought

  1. Ja, hvis et medmenneske blev forulempet, hvad enten det er verbalt eller kropsligt, Jeg griber også ind, hvis trætte forældre f.eks. slår deres børn i et supermarked. For min skyld kan de gøre, hvad de vil i hjemmet, men det ligner ikkenoget at slå, hverken børn eller voksne i det offentlige rum – udsætte for ydmygelse og os andre for medfølelse/afmagt.

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