Friday, December 7, 2007

If you see something, say something

Several years ago, when my daughter was in junior high school, I confronted a couple of boys fighting on the street in our small, upscale, suburban town. A circle of kids surrounded the two as one pushed the other, goading him to action. Both were big for their age, nearly six feet tall, bulky and flabby and not yet comfortable with the size they’d expanded to. They were still, truly, boys.

I walked up to the one doing the pushing, stamped my foot, and shouted as sternly as I could, “Stop it!” They were startled, gave a “who me?” look, and pretended there was nothing really going on. My daughter, in the group of onlookers, was mortified.

That incident didn’t scare me. I never felt at risk. I was simply a mother, doing my motherly thing. And that was, after all, Chappaqua.

This evening, as I followed the heavy crowd of rush-hour commuters to a waiting subway shuttle, a young man in front of me and walking faster than the rest of us, dropped something. It sounded like a phone, so I bent down to pick it up for him. It wasn’t a phone. It was a knife. And just as I recognized it as such, he turned back, swooped down, and picked it up himself.

I was in Times Square, where there are, thankfully, many people, including many police officers. I walked up to the nearest pair of transit cops and told them what I’d seen. One of them went off to confront the young man, who by this time was on the next platform.

Then I got scared.

This man had a similar, young-for-his-size air; big, burly, his pants in danger of losing the struggle with gravity. And he stared right at me from across the tracks as I pointed him out to the officers. There is only one shuttle at a time between Times Square and Grand Central, and as I boarded, I started having visions of him waiting for me at the other end of the line... with his knife.

This incident worked out okay for me, a false alarm. I’m on a train, on my way home to my safe suburban haven. For the most part, I’m not fearful in New York, although that hasn’t always been so. But this incident hit me in a vulnerable spot. It reminded me that no matter how protected I feel in my own skin and environment, I can’t account for the unwholesome impulses of others.

Not to sound paranoid, but no matter how smoothly things seem to be going, there really can be dangers lurking in the shadows.


SusieQ said...

What's the old saying? - just because you're paranoid doesn't mean people aren't out to get you. :)

Ceil said...

Yup! Just what I was thinking.

I don't consider myself overly paranoid. My ex (who I do consider overly paranoid) always accused me of denying and avoiding.

There are degrees.

My adventures with cancer have left me sensitized to the possibilities of things falling from the sky.

Tamar E. Granor said...

Good for you for acting on this, despite your concerns. It's rather frightening to be living in a society where so many people are afraid to tell. I think the only thing the rest of us can do is be willing to tell.

BTW, I've done the Mom thing many times, often to the embarrassment of my own kids.

Ceil said...

Part of my problem is that I don't always recognize the possibility of danger. I give people a lot of credit for being honest and decent and upstanding.

Hmmm... is that a problem? :)

Anyway, yes, it's a good idea to blow the whistle on suspicious activity. Unfortunately, one then risks personal danger (it happens...) and accusations of racism and other violations of civil rights. It's easy to have such a situation blow up in your face.