I would like to share a humble story about this pressing matter with you so that you can decide if, indeed, civic responsibility should be a pillar of modern democracy or if that pillar is just so worn out that we might as well ignore it until it collapses. I would like to first start with the first definition that Google found for me on this topic from Tennessee State University that reads “Civic responsibility means active participation in the public life of a community in an informed, committed, and constructive manner, with a focus on the common good.” This definition relays strong terms such as community, commitment and common good, which are terms that I invite my reader to have in mind while I impart my story.
It was a day like any other day in the month of March. It was passed noon, the sun was still up and I was returning home from University following my regular route on foot. When arriving close to an intersection I noticed a taxi swirling past a middle aged man that was swaying disoriented in the middle of the road. Luckily, I thought to myself, neither the man nor the driver collided. The man, who I knew now was intoxicated beyond any doubt, managed to wobble 50 feet away from traffic and over to a parking space that was near the road.
At this moment I thought to myself: “Would it be ok if I called the police?” “What if he goes back into traffic or onto the cable car lines?” “He might injure someone”. At that very moment something happened that unclouded my decision making process in an instant: The man was trying to get into one of the parked cars under the bridge. Sometimes he was pulling desperately on the door handles and sometimes he was taking a break to search himself for what one would assume was a set of keys. Even if I partially knew that the car that he was looking at was not his own and, therefore, there was no danger of him getting behind the wheel drunk, I had to make the call. After all, he couldn’t have committed vehicular theft at his level of intoxication, but trying to pry open other people’s car is still illegal and with a set of keys in his hand (which he was still probing his jacket for) he could have unwillingly been the perpetrator of property damage.
For those of you who are not familiar with how the emergency call service works here in Romania I will convey my experience exactly. After about 20 seconds of ringing I was greeted by a bland voice and asked with what issue they can be of service. I conferred the happenings as I presented them here (of course also mentioning the location) and after a two minute monologue my interlocutor asked me to give my name so that my call could be transferred to the police. I gave my name, as I barely understood what the person was saying due to the traffic around me and the low volume. While all of this was happening, the intoxicated man gave up on trying to open the car that first caught his eye and was now intent on sabotaging a neighboring white van parked three feet away. No doubt he was aimlessly trying to settle his intoxicated fantasies that one of those cars must be his.
After a short period of holding the telephone call, a second voice greets me and assures me that I am now talking to the appropriate authorities, the Police. This one was more alert and didn’t have the displeasure of having a low volume. I sadly understood that I have to display the whole story again for this new party so I repeated every detail including also the new development of the intoxicated man’s second attempt at a prize. Again I gave my name at the end (this time the person was more inclined at writing it down somewhere) and I was assured that a police car would be dispatched at the scene and that I should remain there momentarily until their arrival. The call ended after lasting about 5 minutes.
And so I waited…