Civic Responsibility – Helping your fellow citizen out

Some weeks before I wrote a piece of personal experience, call it an anecdote if you will, about a call to the police regarding a drunk man tinkering with cars in a parking lot. As you may recall, at that moment I didn’t know if I did the right thing and if it was really necessary for me to call the authorities on the poor man, because, I thought, there was a slim chance of him hurting somebody or getting hurt. But a chance existed, and that’s why I made the call. I wrote this:

The vital question of “Did I do the right thing?” was luckily answered the following week and I promise my readers that I will convey how I came across that answer in a subsequent post.

So here we are! I would like to share the enlightened answer I got before we move to another story that I hope will inspire some civic responsibility.

It happened one week after I placed the emergency call while I was having a couple of drinks with my friends in a locale that had a TV switched on to the 5 o’ clock news (the ProTV channel to be more exact) when something caught my attention. Andreea Esca, the news anchor at that station, mentioned the words “drunk” and “traffic” and the expression “sadly, nobody called the police”. I turned my head and focused my full attention at some amateur footage of a poor intoxicated man, wobbling in the middle of a Bucharest street while passing cars were trying to avoid collision (similar to my story). After some cars safely passed him, a taxi driver stopped his car in front of him and got out with a baseball bat in an attempt to teach the man a lesson by violently removing him from the busy street (luckily the taxi driver was not so vicious in my story).

The encounter was not at all pleasant to watch and the conclusion was that the taxi driver was the one committing a felony (assault) and was facing criminal prosecution. The poor intoxicated man that had no idea of what was going on was just charged for jay-walking and let go. At the end of this news piece, Andreea Esca cited some inspiring words from the officer handling this case. They went something like this: “Citizens are encouraged to call the emergency line even if they think that something dangerous is going to happen”. He was referring to the people that just stood there even before the taxi driver came. As we know, if indeed a crime is being committed, you are obligated to call the authorities (not just encouraged).

This was the point where I went “Aha, I knew I did the right thing!” and I had to explain to my friends in the bar why this particular piece of news got me so riled up.

Now to this week’s story. A concise one, I promise.

Maybe some of you came across citizen ID cards that are displayed out in the open with the noble intent of maybe catching the eye of the misfortunate soul that lost his or her ID card and was retracing steps. Maybe you saw some at the bus ticket vendor, at a shop or at the information desk of an institution. But did you know that persons or companies in possession of lost documents are not allowed to display them publicly? Especially papers that have personal information on them.

Well, I kind of knew this… I was, let’s say, 80% to 90% sure. It was during the last Christmas holiday when I was heading back home after finishing some errands in town. It was pretty late in the evening. I was pacing around the main bus station of the private communal transport company waiting for the last bus of that day when I came across their information’s booth. There they were, right below the bus schedule and below some notifications about transport hours during Christmas and New Year, two ID cards were taped to the window with no regard for the personal information that was displayed publicly.

Now, like I said, I was not 100% sure about the wrongfulness of this action, but I thought that any passerby that had a shady past could easily write down the personal information, or indeed even photograph their ID card and use it for some nefarious fraud scams in the future. And the poor souls who lost their ID cards wouldn’t even know. Even if they managed to recover them, if somebody recorded their data the day before, then they couldn’t be safe in the future.

So I first thought I would do the sensible thing of contacting the people directly responsible. The people in charge of the bus station. Nobody was at the booth, because it was so late, so I looked up the phone number on and dialed them up, but sadly the late hours meant that nobody ended up answering my two attempts at reaching them.

I felt that there was no real rush, like in my previous story, so calling the emergency line didn’t feel like the right thing to do. Instead I quickly browsed the internet for the county police inspectorate phone number. I quickly found a landline number for their office in the city so I called…

An officer answered quickly and introduced himself. I did the same and then I quickly got to my purpose of calling them. I relayed the story that I mentioned here, said that I do not think that displaying personal information in public is right and told him about my worries that it’s only a matter of time before somebody might engage in fraudulent wrongdoings if the ID cards were displayed there for too long. I then asked him if I did the right thing by calling the authorities. This time I got a satisfactory answer: “Indeed, if anybody finds a lost ID card their duty is to send it to the police department as soon as possible. They are not allowed to display it out in the open for anyone to view”(paraphrased). He then told me that they will try to call the bus station managers in the morning and send out somebody to retrieve the ID cards so that the police could forward them to the owners as per official procedure. He ended by telling me that I did the right thing by calling them and I even heard him smiling at the end as he wished my happy holidays.

Now I hope that you too are 100% sure of the wrongfulness of displaying private information in public and that you have learned something extra about Civic Responsibility.


I would now like to leave you with a previous article from this Blog (On Busses), written by my colleague, that deals with social psychology and social consciousness. There you can find a pretty vivid example of citizens (living in a “civilized society”) that lack this Civic Responsibility that we talked about.




Civic Responsibility – Necessity or a Hassle (Part 2)

(read part 1 here)

And so I waited…

And waited… All the while keeping an eye on the man with which I thought I have become so familiar, due to the time spent together that I could write down his whole life story. By together I mean him barely standing and me trying to hide behind a pillar like James Bond in order not to spook him).

It must have been 15 to 20 minutes later when I was thinking to myself if they took the matter serious. Sure, it was a minor act of unlawful behavior that I reported, but still… “Should I call them back?” I asked myself. And at that very moment I spot the police car patrolling the main intersection and I attempt to flag them down like I would a cab driver. The officers were relaxed and professional, they asked me what had happened; one of them wrote down the events while the other tried to engage with the intoxicated man, who was now propped against a pillar trying to perhaps make sense off the things that have transpired.

After the officer tasked with interrogating the man returned he assured me that the poor soul couldn’t even utter a word in any known language and that legally they could not do anything to assure his displacement from that public place. I understood, as he had indeed, in the 20 minutes it took the police to reach him, renounced his life of grand theft auto crimes in order to pursue other, more calming, activities such as pointlessly staring into nothingness.

I took my leave without knowing what truly happened to the man, but before I did, I sincerely asked the police officer who was penciling my observations one last thing: “Did I do the right thing?” That question was not answered that day, as it was met with silence and a warm shoulder shrug. As I made my way home I repeated the question in my head as I turned one last time to see that the police was still there, as was the poor intoxicated man probably being helped by the officers to reach safer paths where he could sway away without hurting others.


The vital question of “Did I do the right thing?” was luckily answered the following week and I promise my readers that I will convey how I came across that answer in a subsequent post.

If you have enjoyed this story, be sure to check back next week when I will try to deliver another experience that I had. This time a more fruitful one for the Civic Responsibility and its common good.


And for those of you thinking these sort of things happen only in less democratic states, I leave you with this video:



Civic Responsibility – Necessity or a Hassle (Part 1)

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…

Go to Part 2 in order to read the conclusion of this story.