Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Failing to Make a Difference

I have walked down a dark street towards the couple having a screaming domestic, his fist hovering by her face and obscenities in his spittle, and I have stopped, and said straight to the woman, “Do you want me to call the police?"

Sometimes I have called the police despite their answer. Sometimes I have not needed to. I have stopped a fight merely by being the only other person on the quiet station platform, standing up, and walking towards them, until they noticed me, and stopped screaming.

Today, some eight yobbos were crowded around the Coffee HQ at Spencer Street Station as I and the beginning of the peak hour crush hurried for that train home. They were shouting and screaming at the sole barister standing behind the counter. I stopped. I got out my phone.

After some more yelling, the gist of which I didn't catch it the cacophony of the station, one knocked a display of fruit bars from the counter, sending them spinning across the pavement, and the group walked away and up the escalators towards the platforms. I followed them. When they goaded each other into turning around and going back down the escalators, back to the coffee counter, I stopped, finger on the dial button. “Wait," one of them said. “We're gonna miss the train."

They turned again and ran back up the stairs through the barriers, and I followed them. I stood at the railing of the second tier and watched them push down onto the platform and dive onto the 4:14 Epping. Then I turned, dashed back to Coffee HQ, and babbled on about what train they'd caught, if I needed to make a statement, call the police, they'd be caught on CCTV, security saw them running. The barista just looked at me and shook his head.

“What's the point?" He gestured towards a far too late appearance by a security guard who very carefully did not approach the coffee counter. “Look at the security here. What they do." I offered to leave my details as a witness. He just shook his head again.

“Don't let the fuckers win," I said, and then left to catch my train.

Justice is not a concept with which I have ever thought myself particularly vested in. Nothing in the world is fair, I do not expect or even hope for fairness, but fairness and justice are two different things. It aggravated me to think that these jerk wads would feel no consequences for their arsehole behaviour. Having been behind the counter and screamed at by a customer, I know how it gets under the skin and makes it just that little bit harder to come to work every single day. This time the fuckers won, and I helped them to do so.

I am a lone and unintimidating female. In such situations this is to my advantage. The taboo of men hitting women, while it cannot be relied on, nevertheless exists. That I am diminutive to boot only compounds my lack of threat, and therefore, the lack of any gain in bullying or crushing me. The man who pushes over the small woman half his size is more likely to be ridiculed by his friends than lauded.

I am a lone and unintimidating female. Unfortunately, I am not unaware of this, and of the position society slots me into, and I let that inform my decisions. Cowardice kept my feet still. You could call it pragmatism, I suppose, but it was cowardice alone that stopped me from stepping in and taking more direct action.

I am a lone and unintimidating female, and I let this be an excuse not to be a Big Goddamn Hero.

I do not turned a blind eye walk away. I'm not a bystander, I will give myself that.

What disappoints me is that what action I do take is not enough.

One day it will be me surrounded by aggressive cunts, and when that happens, I hope someone, anyone, everyone, will step in and make more of a difference than I did today.


  1. You did way, WAY more than most people would even think of doing. Glad to read the full story also. I saw that tweet in transit and worried.

    You, definitely are a Goddamn Hero. Hope they won't return to harass the dude again. :-/

  2. Thanks, Ninny. In the end though, I'm the only one who judges my actions, and I'm the only one whose opinion counts for anything, and I'm disappointed.

    The whole reason there's a growing culture of violence and thuggery around the cities is because people do 'mind their own business' and turn a blind eye, and so the people who do it get away with it once, twice, three times. They get bolder as no one challenges them, and as they get bolder, people are more fearful and intervene even less.

    : [

  3. Anonymous1/2/11 10:09

    Failure my ass. You are BRAVE AND FUCKING AWESOME.

  4. By trying to do something, you DID make a difference. Good on ya.

  5. I have been here. I have felt the fear that held my feet to the floor and kept my tongue still. And I felt shame afterwards. But you did take action and for that you should recognise your own courage.

    Do not judge yourself so harshly for things you did not do. Another day you may feel more able, regardless of fear and labels, and because of this post so shall I.

    I leave you with a quote from Bernard Cornwell:
    "Courage isn't like a bottle of whiskey. You don't empty it once and for all. You're just learning your trade. The first time in battle a boy reckons he can beat anything, but after a while he learns that battle is bigger than all of us. Being brave isn't ignorance, it's overcoming knowledge."

  6. Besides what has been said already, you're also making a difference by posting here about it.
    I live in a rather quiet town and can't remember the last time I came across a situation like those you're describing. But I suspect that when I did, I was one of the countless people who turned away and did nothing. Next time, I'll remember this post, and have it be another nudge in my mind toward taking positive action.

  7. I watched a teenager get pummeled by four or five others outside a subway stop one afternoon. I *am* large and intimidating, but I am only one and they were a bunch of punks. I called the police (as did at least one other that I can recall), but I wasn't going to take any direct action, because the backlash on me would not have been worth the results. Neither would it have been worth it if it were one of you against eight of them.

    You were aware of the situation and prepared to do something about it if it got out of hand. There really isn't much more one *could* do that isn't borne of madness.

  8. Ooooh, no. They were being horrendously aggressive, but not actually violent. Violence is not something I will dive in on, have absolutely no illusions about how I'd come out of a physical altercation.

    But seriously, this was in broad daylight in a wide open public area, and it was -busy- with commuters and travelers, and as far as those jerkwads were concerned, they could behave that way in the middle of a massive crowd and no one would dare challenge them, and as far as the barista was concerned, he was being menaced in full open busy public and yet he was entirely alone.

    THAT bothers me.

    And Aanimal, be very wary about intervening in such situations. Being as you're a guy, and if not big at least extremely tall, people are more likely to see you as a target upon which they can prove themselves. Big guys in bars always get picked on for fights, even if they're not doing anything.

    The wonders of society.

  9. You might find this interesting:


  10. I found this post thanks to light208. I'm glad I was directed here. Excellent writing. Excellent thinking.