Some of the things you could learn up a drainpipe at night were surprising. For example, people paid attention to small sounds – the click of a window catch, the clink of a lockpick – more than they did to big sounds, like a brick falling into the street or even (for this was, after all, Ankh-Morpork) a scream.
These were loud sounds which were therefore public sounds, which in turn meant they were everyone’s problem and, therefore, not mine. But small sounds were nearby and suggested such things as stealth betrayed, and so were pressing and personal.
-Making money, Terry Pratchett.
This is such a truism. I even count myself among its adherents. I am far more likely to react to a slight noise outside my window at night than I am (for example) to someone being murdered in the street outside my house. (which is a serious inconvenience at 2am).
That’s not to say I would roll over and go to back to sleep… okay… I probably wouldn’t roll over and go back to sleep. But I certainly wouldn’t feel the heroic compulsion to go an investigate such an occurrence. I might phone someone. Although (because this is South Africa) not the police, because… well… they might be the ones doing the murdering. Which can… well… it can get awkward. And the next thing you know you’re using harsh language, pointed inflections and uttering prefixed recriminations. And trust me on this when I say that never works out for the ‘innocent’ bystander.
Better to contract out this sort of endeavor to people with a gung-ho demeanor and the missing ‘self-preservation’ link in their otherwise normal looking helix.