Tag Archives: Silence

The People On The Bus

I never had to ride a bus to school, and that was a blessing.  To this day I’m still a little wary of them.  Rare class trips confirmed that they were the ideal breeding ground for my anxiety; an enclosed space with mysterious and opaque social rules and customs.  Where you sat and with whom was evidently meaningful to other riders.  On those rare trips I knew enough to stay clear of the back of the bus.  Even as a very small person I sensed that no good could come from being so far away from an adult.  As a younger child those seats seemed very high and quite conducive to hiding bad behavior.  Bad behavior has always frightened me.

A story of a bus matron (which we did not have on our class trips) being verbally abused by children does not surprise me.  Children are people.  Some people are lovely some are disgusting and some fall somewhere in-between.  What does seem inconceivable to me however is that this behavior would have continued for any amount of time.  It stands to reason that at least a handful of children on that bus are little versions of me.  They were frightened by the behavior.  The thought of getting on that bus every morning made their stomachs hurt.  They told their parents.  They asked to be driven to school.  They explained that they’re bad kids on the bus.  There is no vow of secrecy or non-disclosure agreement on the bus.  These are not members of organized crime.  They’re just kids that happen to live along the same bus route.  Someone (if not many) told.  Kids tell.

Following that theory (and it is just a theory, devoid of any factual support whatsoever) could it be that the parents did nothing to stop it?  Once we get past our shock, it does sound plausible, no?  Don’t we tend to assume that things are not our business?  Don’t we usually duck and dive under a bush to avoid any form of confrontation (unless it’s from the confines of our car and involves obscene gestures, or through anonymous comments on the web?)  Despite all government pleading, how many times do we really see something and say something?  Do we “suffer” through a broken streetlight, or wonky elevator?  Or do we fill out a maintenance report?  Do we gape, horrified at teenage girls pulling their tops up on the side of the highway?  Or do we explain how those photos they’re taking might someday limit their options in life?

Hopefully we speak up.  Hopefully we’ve been on the planet long enough to understand the dangers of silence.  Hopefully every day we choose to tip the balance away from disgusting and towards lovely.

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Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Childhood, Cultural Critique


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Do The Right Thing

For all its diversity and dispersion, there is a collective conscious to New York City.  Most often it’s evident after disaster or crops up cyclically.  There is a collective bonhomie that occurs around Christmas.  (Ironic, for a town considered so Jewish.)  Transit strikes and black-outs bring out a certain camaraderie as well.  But ordinarily, on a day to day basis, the collective consciousness usually simply appears as a collective disapproval of the behavior of others.  Not action, mind you, more of a rolling of the eye form of disapproval.
There are knowing glances that occur on buses and subways at the appearance of a group of waistband challenged youth.  (If teenagers ever discover that their attempts at intimidating us people of a certain age with their boxer shorts are actually met with pity, they will be crushed.)  Looks are traded as the inadequate headphones spill banging, tinny, repetitive thumps into the subway or bus.  (Another heads up for aggressive youth; your choice of music and volume makes us people of a certain age wonder if you have any musical sensibility whatsoever.  We don’t feel “out of touch” or intimidated by your blatant disrespect for social mores.  We just kind of pity you.)
Then there are incidents that not only garner knowing looks and breaking the cone of silence to actually comment on said incident to a stranger, there are incidents that motivate people to speak to the offender!  It is rare.  But when it does happen, my heart soars.  If I had one wish for our culture at large, it would be; SAY SOMETHING!!!!!  Speak up when you see something.  Is there a dangerous wire hanging down?  Tell someone.  Does the elevator not work?  Tell someone.  Does a child appear to be in danger?  For the love of G-d open your “I don’t want to get involved” head hole.
This rant only reinforces how happy I was to see the split second response to a man walking down Madison Avenue (across a very busy intersection) with his dog; off of the leash.  Several of us looked horrified and commented to each other.  But one extremely decent man, caught up with the offender and explained the extreme danger he was inflicting upon the dog in the name of coolness.  The offender took no heed of course, and continued on his path to the stares and horror of everyone he walked past.
Perhaps he’ll be ticketed, or overwhelmed by a roving gang of SPCA members.  Probably nothing will happen to him and his dog will continue to be a victim of a variation of the “friend as parent” syndrome.
I often wonder…if children can be removed for neglect, why can’t animals?  Where is the SPCA in this?

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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Cultural Critique


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