when something bad’s going to go down… something dangerous. I don’t know if it’s something in the air, or because I’ve lived in the city so long, or even if it’s because I’m a woman, but sometimes there’s a vibe that just tickles the back of my neck that makes me pay more attention to my surroundings.
what brings this up is an incident that happened this morning. it was a bright, sunny day and I was running late (as usual) to the subway. out of the corner of my eye, I see these four guys walking up the block being rowdy and I just knew they were going to be trouble. I sped up and jogged down the escalator to get to the crowd waiting for the subway.
sure enough, soon as those guys showed up they started harassing an older woman dressed up as Marilyn Monroe. it started out light enough, but soon deteriorated into real harassment. it was obvious they were all on drugs of some kind. fortunately, one of them realized it was going down a bad road and pulled the worst offender away from the woman just as I was getting ready to head for the emergency intercom.
the whole atmosphere changed in an instant. people talk about this happening, but when you’re in the middle of it, it’s really quite extraordinary. everyone gets real watchful and real cautious, looking out for their own. the girls clustered together and parents took a tighter hold on their kids. everyone stopped talking. the singles, like me, made sure they were tangentially near a group. no one wanted to get caught out alone for potential violence.
not 2 minutes later, there’s an outcry further down the platform and I see those two guys fighting on the tracks! at this point, the train’s about 3 minutes from coming and there’s no way it’ll see them in time to stop if it’s coming in full speed. I was going for the intercom again but another woman beat me to it. meanwhile, the train headlight becomes visible down the track and we don’t know if these morons are going to get back on the platform in time.
they did. the guy who seemed the least high (incidentally, the one who’d pulled his ‘friend’ away from Marilyn) ended up with a broken nose, or that’s what he said into the intercom at least, and the train inched very, very slowly into the station. the conductor was looking out his side window, literally, his head stuck out trying to see the tracks. the woman who beat me to the intercom told him the guys got off the tracks.
now I’m not detailing this to give my mom a heart attack (sorry mom), I’m just still… astounded, I guess is the right word, about the different reactions of the crowd. how a small woman stepped up to take charge. how a couple of muscled young guys steered clear. how an old man kept a firm eye on the thugs – even though he couldn’t physically intervene unless he wanted to get his ass kicked, I got the sense he would anyhow. how protective the parents got, especially the single mother with her two small, adorable boys.
as a writer, this is the kind of experience that makes my creative life richer.
as a single woman traveling alone, it reminds me to stock up on pepper spray.