Power to the people

I became the victim of a vaguely-violent crime today.

(I’ve actually already been a victim of violent crime several times, but not any time recently)

And, before I continue, I’m just fine.

So, I’m standing at a bus stop this evening, at a fairly crowded city corner.  When I see my ride coming down the street, I join the mass of people half-heartedly jockeying for position and take out my wallet to get my transit pass.

The next thing I know, I’m being pulled through the air by my groin, and then I’m on the ground.  By the time I look up a moment later, it’s all over, and a heavy woman in a hideous purple jacket  is waddling across the street shouting “Ima get the  PO-lice!”  You ever trip and been up again before you’ve really registered that you were ever down?  Yeah, that was me.

What happened?  Well, apparently, as I took out my wallet to get my bus pass, some dumb-ass kid decided to make a grab for it and dash off.  Now, my wallet (as a matter more of fashion than security, to be honest) happens to be attached to a chain, which is attached to my belt, which is attached to me.  So, the kid snatches my wallet and takes off, and gets three feet before the chain on my wallet stops him dead.  His feet fly out from under him, and down he goes.  I get jerked after him before I even know what’s happening.

At any rate, three seconds later, I’m standing again while half-a-dozen people from the bus stop are basically sitting on this kid, and the stout purple lady is already off towards a police car around the corner.  Five minutes later, the officers have taken my phone number and are leading Robin Hood off to their car.

Why am I sharing this?  Well, it is kind of a cool story.  Let no one tell you that a wallet chain is purely fashion affectation.  Those things apparently work.

More generally, though, I was impressed by how quickly the random folks at the bus stop were on this kid.  I mean, they were literally on him, using their weight to hold him until the police arrived.  By the time I even knew what had happened, the total strangers near me had captured the criminal, gone to get the police, and asked if I were okay.  There was none of the “You have to yell Fire! because if you yell Help! no one will come” stuff that you hear about sometimes; I didn’t even have time to squeak and it was all over.

What’s the lesson here?  People do care.  We tend to get jaded sometimes and think that by quietly going about our personal business we are somehow isolated from each other.  But, that’s not necessarily true, as my experience today shows.  And, this wasn’t a case of people seeing a crime, and stopping to think, and then deciding to help.  This was reflex; people helped before they even had time to decide.  This wasn’t a big crime — no one was hurt, little was taken, and not much was at stake,

(I’m especially grateful that no one stabbed me)

but a fairly large group of people still helped out a total stranger, without decision or forethought, for no other reason because they were there and they could.  That’s… pretty cool, I think.  What could have been a frustrating and perhaps even traumatic experience was reduced by a wallet chain and a quick-thinking crowd to a footnote in my day.  Frankly, that gives me a little cause for optimism — as much as it seems like it sometimes, we’re not all heartless jerks.

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