There is an ad campaign by the NYC MTA that goes, “If You See Something, Say Something.”
Rather than encourage New Yorkers to become directly involved in whatever “something” is happening, the saying encourages them to delegate the responsibility of handling said situation to someone else.
This is because in New York you can’t just go saving people without their consent; they could become violently angry with you, and then there would be multiple “see something, say something” scenarios at hand to report.
I experienced my first “see something, say something” situation about a week ago.
Last week while getting dressed in the locker room after an intense elliptical session at Planet Fitness (which is a very generous name for the windowless warehouse that holds workout equipment), I noticed a pair of feet sticking out from underneath the stall in the most bizarre fashion. They were splayed out in the most unnatural, peculiar way, and with further inspection, I noticed her head was hanging and her arms rested limp at her sides.
What in the world is that girl doing? How can she even stay on the toilet sitting like that? She must have a strong core, capable of balancing. Is she on her phone?
I coughed loudly in a feeble attempt to get her attention.
I sighed heavily in hopes that my dramatic illustration of boredom would awaken her.
I stood directly in front of her stall door and clapped my hands loudly, as if trying to murder a fly in mid-flight.
Oh my God—Splayed-Out-Toilet-Girl was dead. Or maybe she was in a deep sleep state brought on by low blood sugar, or anemia, or extreme IBS! Oh my God! I saw something, so now I have to say something! But there was no time to say something; I had to DO SOMETHING.
My mind leapt into Baywatch Rescue Team mode: My initial instinct was to kick down the door, pull up her pants, and resuscitate her by any means necessary—or, at the very least, force-feed her a banana because I learned from Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves that when people pass out, you force-feed them bananas!
But as I was about to run body-first at the stall door, a thought crossed my mind: What if this girl ends up being crazy and she springs to life and stabs me in the neck with a tampon she’s been sharpening for the past hour?
So I decided to stick to the MTA code of ethics: Say something! I quickly dressed, gathered my things, and ran upstairs where I breathlessly accosted Kelly, the Planet Fitness team member working at the front desk.
“SOMEONE PASSED OUT IN THE LOCKER ROOM!”
Kelly, wearing her purple Planet Fitness crew neck, stared back at me. Her multiple pierced ears glistened in the fluorescent light, her mouth slightly open illustrating her confusion and slight annoyance at the potential liability I just brought to her attention.
“Um, OK. Did you check and see if she was breathing?” Kelly asked.
“No! I didn’t. I couldn’t!”
“Do you not know how to check a pulse?” Kelly asked curtly.
“No! I do, it’s just she is…um, she’s on the—she’s using the bathroom.”
“She’s using the bathroom?” Kelly repeated. I could tell this conversation was quickly turning circular.
“She was on the toilet. She was using the toilet!”
Kelly blinked. “Are you sure she wasn’t just, you know, taking her time?”
Why was Kelly bothering me with these inane questions? Splayed-Out-Toilet-Girl was down there dying! Ugh! I should have just done something!
“Look I—I saw her feet and they were…sort of splayed out in a way that indicated, or implied, or suggested that she was not conscious.”
Kelly picked up the phone and dialed.
“Doug? It’s Kel. We have a potential fainter in the locker room. Ya, women’s room. She is apparently on the toilet. Yup, on the toilet. OK, great, see you down there. Bye.”
Kelly hung up the phone.
“Thanks for bringing to this our attention,” Kelly said with about as much reassurance as a spoon. “We’ve got it from here.”
“Oh, you don’t—you don’t need my help?”
“I don’t need to give you my information or anything?”
“Your information for what?”
“In case you…well, I don’t know—”
“We’re all good here, Miss. Thank you.”
And with that passive-aggressive “fuck off” from Kelly, I left.
I spent the next week obsessing over the fate of Splayed-Out-Toilet-Girl. I checked local newspapers for any mention of a young twenty-something who died on a Planet Fitness toilet. Every time I went to the bathroom I got flashbacks of her Asics pointing aggressively in opposite directions. I awoke in the middle of the night thinking her ghost was flushing my toilet ominously. The unknown fate of Splayed-Out-Toilet-Girl was haunting me, and I blamed the gym.
How dare Planet Fitness exclude me from the outcome of Splayed-Out-Toilet-Girl! I found her! She was my responsibility for about three minutes! I deserve to know what happened! I should at least get her address so I can send some geraniums to her family!
The next day, I marched into Planet Fitness with the intent of finding out exactly what happened to Splayed-Out-Toilet-Girl.
“Welcome to Planet Fitness!” Kelly beamed.
“Oh! Hello, Kelly. Look, what happened to that girl?”
“The girl! The girl who passed out here. Last Thursday. She was…she was on the toilet?”
“Oh! Yeah. Gosh, I forgot about that.” Kelly smiled at me and lowered her voice. “Turns out she was just not feeling very well and was just—you know—taking her time. She’s completely fine. Don’t worry!”
I was shocked and then slightly relieved.
“But,” Kelly started, “thank you for saying something. It’s good you said something. Imagine if there was actually something wrong with her, you know, other than gas. You would have saved her life.”
And this is why the NYC MTA implemented “If You See Something, Say Something”—because on that off chance the girl on the toilet is passed out as a result of a heart attack and not excess air in her intestine, it’s important someone alerts another someone so that she can live.
So if you see something, say something.