Have you ever seen the 20/20 Primetime’s series, “What Would You Do?” Basically the segment explores moral dilemmas by setting up scenarios in public (like aggressive behavior in couples, petty shoplifting, etc) and filming what happens with every day onlookers.
A few weeks ago, I sat with my daughter at the computers (set up for children to play with) in my local Apple store. A gentleman and his approximately 5-year-old daughter sat down at the computer next to us. After a few frustrating moments of trying to get a game loaded for his daughter, he looked at me and said to his daughter, “Why don’t you go play with that little girl?” Neither girl was amenable to the situation, and I was relieved not to have to tell him that I was not going to babysit his daughter while he shopped around in the store.
A few minutes later, I heard him say to her, “Okay, I’m going to run to the car. I’ll be right back.” Entranced with her game, she nodded . . . and then he WALKED OUT OF THE STORE.
I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh! Am I witnessing a child being abandoned right here? What do I do? Is he coming back?” The store was busy, evidently gearing up for the Christmas season.
For nearly 15 minutes, I didn’t move a muscle.
Then the little girl looked up, and began calling out for her Daddy. She looked around the store, searching for him. I looked too. She began to walk away from the computers, but I called her to come back and sit down. I told her I thought her Daddy would be right back, and that she should sit and wait there. She obliged and went back to her game.
Finally, her dad came through the door. I didn’t know what to do. Do I confront him? Do I tell an Apple store employee? I figured that confronting him – even if he was kind about it – would probably not do any good. He was making a bad, stupid choice in parenting, and even if the full potential ramifications of his choice had not clicked in his brain, ultimately his selfishness drove his decision. . . and I didn’t see that changing from an irate parent-to-parent confrontation.
He was back. I decided to let it go and went to find my mom who was shopping in another part of the store.
As we walked out of the store, we passed him again sauntering (not in a hurry, but rather strolling, window shopping!) down the sidewalk WITHOUT his daughter. I stopped in my tracks, torn with what to do. He walked back into the store, presumably to check on his daughter.
I decided not to follow him in and give him a piece of my mind.
When I recounted the story to my husband later, the 20/20 segment immediately came to mind. Obviously, the show had not set up this scenario; it was painfully real. But in my heart, I felt like I failed that little girl. I should have said something to someone. But who? And what?
So, I leave the question to you? What would you do?