19 July 2007

A Tale of Three Stories

Story 1: (This comes from a general authority but I can't remember which specific one. Forgive me.) He tells this story of being in line in an airport. Somewhere else in this line is a woman visibly struggling with her kids. She's alone. The kids are (understandably) whining and possibly crying, enough so that everyone in the line is getting impatient with her and wishing she'd just shut up those kids. Instead of doing as everyone else, the GA offers assistance to this poor woman, who gratefully accepts. The kids are happy, the mom is happy, and everyone in line is happier.

Story 2: A Washington Post columnist is in an airport. He notices a beautiful young woman who is crying. She's alone. He's afraid to do anything because he's old enough to be her father and doesn't want to come across as a dirty old man who is offering aid only because she's a beautiful young woman. He doesn't do anything. He regrets his inaction very much. To make it worse, a young woman who had recently been in this exact situation tells this columnist that she would have been extremely grateful if he had spoken to her. He regrets his inaction even more.

Story 3: I am on the metro coming home from work yesterday when a very large woman is incessantly ratting her keys. And this isn't your quiet key rattling. She's throwing them around and occasionally hitting the window and other objects. She does this all the way from Union Station to Glenmont, about a 25-minute ride. As we approach Silver Spring, the yelling of obscenities begins. She uses every single obscenity that I know, in one sentence. Apparently she wants the train to skip the next three stations and head straight to Glenmont, as if this were an option. Everyone on the train is ignoring at her and the situation, but everyone hears her. They have to. At one point, someone makes eye contact with her because she loudly says, "What are you looking at?" No one tries that again. She continues the key rattling and the obscenity yelling. Of course I am not doing anything to appease this situation, as she's twice my size and obviously upset. But then I remember Story 1 and Story 2 and wonder if I should do something. Should I get up and ask if she's okay? Should I get up and tell her that we'll be to Glenmont shortly? Or do I just sit there reading my National Geographic, pretending that nothing is happening? I don't regret my choice of action, but should I?

8 comments:

A said...

I think that first story is about the mythic Spencer W. Kimball, and no I don't think that I would have done anything. They first two stories were about people who obviously needed help. It seems like the woman doens't need any comfort or help, is more just annoyed at the daily routine of life. Maybe I am wrong.

Deanna said...

I think that based on the woman's response to the person who made eye contact with her, she probably would NOT have reacted well to you trying to help her. If I had a huge posse of people to back me up if something went wrong - maybe then I would have tried it, but under the circumstances I would have sat there and read National Geographic too.

Ruth & Ryan said...

I don't think she needed the kind of help you could offer her. I think you did the right thing. In these types of situations I usually just sit back and try to ignore when I am alone but when my kids are with me and someone acts that way, watch out! There was this man in Michael's recently who was calling people queers and faggots and then it went downhill from there. Soon we had a mother with two small children and that is when I took action. I told him he needed to watch his language and leave the store. He didn't listen to me but eventually the manager made him leave by threatening to call the police.

holly said...

Hmmm, if I were in that situation I would've thought about trying to say something but would've stuck with my magazine, too. It is an uncomfortable feeling, wondering what you should do but not really knowing. Definitely a deep thought.

Gretchen said...

Are you crazy? Do you want to get yourself KILLED?? The first cardinal rule of dealing with crazy people is to never let them know that you know that they are crazy. The second cardinal rule is to get out of their throwing range.

Under no circumstances would I have tried to "help" that person ... unless I had a tranq gun handy. I'm sure telling them that we'd be at Glenmont soon would have only resulted in having their keys chucked at my head. You did the right thing.

linda said...

wow, this was really fun to read, comments included.

Camie said...

I agree....help the normal people and stay away from the crazies

Niederfam said...

I'm with Camie and Gretchen..........it could have been TRAGIC to interfere with this woman. However, I could have been the woman in story #1, BUT I only had one child and it was the Vegas terminal and a REALLY nice man did help me, and I am forever grateful!!!!! So you know, you can pay it forward another time, good call on this one!