round and round...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I know you didn't just toss that.

Lyn reminded me of something I meant to write about here last week and then life got in my way. Let's hop in the way-back machine and go to last Wednesday. I'll set the scene...

I was walking to the subway around 4PM to go into Manhattan to get a massage. Have I mentioned that my massage therapist is also my doula? It's such a sweet deal. Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I was walking to the train and it was broad daylight. For some reason, that strikes me as a very important part of the story. Broad daylight, folks. I was headed down the block and a teenager approaching from the opposite direction took the last sip from his Snapple bottle, put the cap back on, and when he was about 10' from me he tossed it on the ground.

He. Tossed. It. On. The. Ground.

This goes back to the broad daylight comment - it was not dark, it was not in a bad part of town, the kid was not the only person on the block at the time. In fact, there was a middle aged man walking right behind him who said nothing. The man said not a word. So, if you know anything about me at all, you know that I 1) cry at the drop of a hat, 2) really hate puking, and 3) believe wholeheartedly that it is up to each of us as individuals to stand up and speak up when we see things happening that are not OK by our societal standards. If we don't do #3 we (the royal WE) are destined to let bad crap happen over and over until we decay into the kind of people none of us want to be.

Again, back to the matter at hand. The young man tossed his bottle on the ground and I look to the older man to say something. I wasn't looking for an out, I just happen to think that perhaps a few guiding words from an older black man would have more of an affect on a black teenaged male than those same words from a 31 yr old me. The man said nothing, so I realized quickly that it was my responsibility to speak up.

"I'm sure you accidentally dropped that bottle, my friend. I'm sure you didn't just toss that."

Silence, the kid kept walking but glanced back at me.

"You really think it's OK to toss your trash around this neighborhood? We both live here and I'll tell you right now that's not OK."

At this point people are looking at me, but no one is looking at the kid and no one is joining in what should be a chorus of sane voices speaking up against ridiculous behavior.

"Alright, I see how you want to play this one. I'll pick this up for you this time since your mother clearly isn't here to clean up after you and I refuse to live in a neighborhood covered in trash. I'm bending down now (getting louder at this point to make sure he can hear me halfway down the block) to pick up your trash. All 9 months pregnant of me, cleaning up after your sorry self. I really hope your mother doesn't know you act this way. Have a great day!"

I picked up the bottle, carried it to the corner, deposited it into someone's recycling bin and that's when I heard the laughter. There was a teenaged couple walking behind me laughing and I heard the boy say to the girl, "Yo, she picked up that fucking bottle, yo! She fucking picked that shit up! Hahahahaha!"

"It's funny to you? It's not funny to me, and it wasn't hard, either. I picked up someone else's mess because I live here. Did you grow up here? Do you want this place where you grew up to look like shit because someone else is too selfish and lazy to take care of his own business? I bet you don't. I'm sure you don't want that."

Another important note in this story is that I didn't get heated. My tone of voice was calm and assertive, but not aggressive. No use in acting like a crazy person just because I'm pissed off. You do far more good when you're calm than you do when you're irate and just screaming at folks. It's like when I need a seat on the subway because I'm hugely pregnant and people are acting like they don't notice or acting like they're sleeping (mmm hmm, both of those happen all the time). I don't get all huffy. Instead, I calmly go to the largest, strongest man sitting down and ask politely if he would mind giving me his seat. "Excuse me, sir? Would you mind if I took your seat? I hate to ask, but I'm 9 months pregnant and my balance is pretty awful." It works every time. No yelling, no crazy antics. That man (and everyone else on the train) is far more likely to notice the next pregnant woman and give her a seat instead of remembering the loony pregnant chick they saw on the train yelling at some dude.

Moral of the story? Do good, be good. When you see something that doesn't fall into either category, calmly encourage the person doing it to reconsider. You just might make a real difference. It's not as gratifying as screaming in outrage in the exact moment it's happening, but 30 seconds later you'll feel so good you might surprise yourself.

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3 What people are saying:

Blogger Lynilu rambles...

OK, I know it is a different world in which I grew up, but I miss the days of people doing nice things .... holding open doors, offering seats to women & the elderly, caring about the community. Such small things, but so very important in making a world comfortable for everyone. I share your anger, your indignance. And I've been known to give my own orations. And I've either been glared at, cussed out, or laughed at, but I won't stop!!!

3/03/2009 09:58:00 PM

Blogger Anisa rambles...

you're are a rockstar. 9 months pregnant and STILL kicking ass. love it.

3/05/2009 09:39:00 AM

Blogger Monogram Queen rambles...

You are lucky all they did was laugh, people are ... well i'm sorry to say it, but people pretty much SUCK in my opinion. The youth in my classes this semester are doing nothing to give me faith in our future- that's for sure.
You do give me faith, sweet, dear, brave girl! You will be an awesome role model for your little one! Bless you for speaking up.

3/05/2009 10:28:00 AM


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