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Good Samaritan Vs. Busy Body

Here's a what-would-you-do scenario for all you aspiring ethicists:

I just did a quick run to our local grocery store. As I was checking out, a neatly dressed, well-coiffed woman apparently in her seventies stepped into the empty line next to me and started chewing the cashier out at the top of her lungs. Her line of attack went something like, "That guy you are making fun of is my brother-in-law and he's a lawyer in DC! He's my sister's husband! I've been in here with him before! He's a lawyer! In DC! So you all had better just shut the hell up!" (Profanity most definitely hers.)

The woman repeated this basic refrain a couple of times, with the handful of surrounding employees and customers looking both perplexed and increasingly concerned. Fairly quickly, the store's chronically genial manager stepped in to ask if he could be of assistance, at which point the woman tore into him. I couldn't hear what the manager said to defuse the situation, but the woman soon quieted down and wandered out the door. Major incident averted. 

But then, as I was loading my bags into the car, I noticed the woman--cotton-candy sweater, white pants, shoulder-length white bob, dainty handbag--drifting slowly out of the parking lot and down the road.

I guess it's possible that the people at the market had been snickering about this woman's brother-in-law. It's even more possible that the woman wasn't wandering aimlessly but was headed toward a house or condo or one of the senior living enclaves located in the area. But there's also a pretty good chance that she was, in fact, in the midst of some sort of medical episode that called for if not prompt assistance then at least careful attention. 

My instinct in these types of situations is to leave well enough alone--but maybe that's just because I can't decide what the more appropriate response would be.


--Michelle Cottle