Monday, July 18, 2005

And other days...

Usually I write I Love New York posts. It's for the benefit of those that question the intelligence of my living situation. But you know, sometimes even the one you love shows an ugly side.

I was riding the F train downtown this afternoon, headed to Carroll Gardens to buy the new Harry Potter. I sat down across from a hipster (straw fedora, peg leg pants, square toed ankle boots, tank top, messenger bag, two tone hair) who had to be asked 3 times by an older lady to change his posture and move his bag so she could sit in the seat next to him. I always have a moment of scoffing at people like that, even though I'm sure I've pissed off plenty of old ladies in my time, and yet still I scoff, especially when it's a hipster. Perpendicular to him, in a two seater was a father and son team. Possibly Hispanic, the kid was around 10 years old.

So we ride and I read and eventually I doze.


I sort of open my eyes in time to see the tail end of the kid getting smacked again.


The kid takes off running to the end of the car, and the father is yelling and drops his candy and his newpaper and takes off running after him. The train is pulling into a station and I think, "Get off the train, kid." I can't see if he does. The whole car is watching.

What kills me is, the kid knew what to do, he knew where his exits were and he knew he had to run. This has happened to him a lot. He's only 10. Up to then they'd seemed to be having a run of the mill conversation and eating Skittles. Bad dads don't buy you Skittles, do they?

Apparently they do.

I thought all this after the train had left that station. Do you know how you can tell? I didn't do anything. I didn't even think about going after them. The extent of my assistance was a hard thought, "Get off the train, kid." I honestly wanted him to run and run and get away (to where? who the hell knows) but I didn't help him do that.

That hipster, though? He threw his paper down and he walked toward their end of the car. When he saw them get off the train he got off the train. As we left the station he was speaking to the father and getting screamed at for his trouble. The kid was being held by the choking collar of his t-shirt and he was bawling and the father was pointing a finger in the hipster's face and screaming until he was as red faced as the kid.

And I sat on the train and headed toward Bergen Street to spend money on a book.

Now, there's child abuse everywhere, even in small towns. If you don't think there's abuse going on where you live then you might want to look into getting those rose colored lenses replaced and joining us in the real world. The difference is that in a small town you usually don't have to watch it. Sure, once in a while you'll see a swat or a shake in the grocery store or the mall but you can pretend that it's a long day of shopping and that it's just a case of everyone being tired. In a lot of cases that's probably true.

In a place with well used public transportation you see a lot of personal stuff. I can take the guy poping a zit on his calf, I can take the daily make up application on a crowded rush hour train, and, while I'd like to strangle the preachers, I'm used to them. But the abuse of kids, of spouses, of friends, it shames me.

Because I don't do anything.


  1. Here's my take on this; there's a good chance that the hipster caused more harm than he sought to cure. There's a high liklihood that the dad took his anger, frustration, and embarrassment at being called to the carpet by this oddly dressed stranger out on the boy. More than that, there's a better-than-even chance that he did it at home, where no one was looking, and that it was a more enthusiastic effort than anything that would have happened on the F.

    Now, I'm not saying that someone shouldn't step in whenever it's possible, especially when there's obvious danger of broken limbs or concussion or worse. Getting in the middle of a scuffle involving random strangers and expecting to make things better, though, is a long and damned near impossible shot to make. I have found that it is rarely possible to improve the plight of an abused person on a "see them in the grocery store" kind of basis. Wanna make a difference? Look into a community program, volunteer at a hotline or shelter, become a Big Sister. We may not be able to help someone get out from under an abuser, but we can certainly make a huge difference in their lives once they do.

  2. I did think of that, and I'm sure that the level of anger and frustration was upped by the encounter. On the other hand I still support the hipster's decision. My hope is that it at least sent the message to the kid that this is not OK and it's not the way that things should be. Short term it's no help at all but, assuming the kid survives the short term, I hope it'll help him in the long term. The rest of a train full of people looking on like they were extras in The Gladiator surely did not.

  3. how well you write! what a fabulous idea to write these blogs and get ideas and daily frustrations out on paper - I am super-impressed at your 1 yr. commitment to this writing and completely inspired - you will be the next Helen Fielding (aka Bridget Jones) and I'll be able to say I knew you when!

  4. Thanks Steph!
    I do get a lot of bewildered responses to my writing here. A lot of people seem to think its' a but nutty to do such thing so it's an enormous help to hear yoru encouragement. I'm glad you're here.

  5. And not just Child abuse... but Dog abuse.
    While I was at the dog park the other day with MY wonderfully behaved, beloved dog who lives to please me and me only and my child who lives to defy me.
    A man. A very, very mean man went to wailing on this wonderful Labradoodle. This is not a small dog. And from what I understand the breed is not lacking at all in intelligence.
    He was a beautiful dog, but aren't they all?
    But this very, very mean man took his whole arm and leaned over and started wailing on this dog.
    What for? What for? Barking. That is his job, to bark. Dogs don't contemplate To bark or not to bark. They bark.
    Publicly flogging the dog!
    I didn't keep my mouth closed, couldn't.
    And told him that I didn't want my child or my dog to be witness to his display of cruelty.
    He replied of course, that it was none of my business.
    He might of well as said Fuck you.
    It was Armageddon.
    I kindly reminded him that baldness was not a genetic disease but a karmic one and that if he were to continue his rein of terror he would indeed lose the two hairs he had left on his head.
    And then wiggled my nose and gave him the color purple Ms. Sealy two fingers.
    Everything you done to me... will come back to you.

  6. Absolutely. And good for you to say your peace (piece?).
    Dogs just love us and protect us - mostly kids do too - so there is nothing worse than dishonoring that. Man, people suck sometimes.
    In our dog park a few years ago a guy dropped his pitbull on the concrete on its HEAD for "being a fucking homo". The dog had tried to mount another dog, you know, like dogs do for dominance and shit. Gah!