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10 July, 2012

What would Brian do?

I was riding the bus home tonight, across Downtown Seattle, around 11pm. It was a reasonable-sized crowd for a Tuesday night. We stop in Lower Queen Anne, and several people get on the bus. One of them is a tall, young guy, wearing all black. Long black coat, stylish black pants, and a top hat, with giant furry rabbit ears protruding from the hat. He's a kind of spectacle, yes. I immediately wonder if he's a "furry" or if he's gay, and if he's going to some sort of party, or if this is just standard attire for Tuesday night. But it's just observation, not really any significant judgment (at least, not intentionally).

A couple of stops later, a few more people get on the bus. One of them is a tall man, with a belly, medium-length white hair and a beard, wearing stone washed jeans, and a denim shirt. He looks extremely disheveled, both in terms of his clothes, which are covered in paint, and his person. He smells. And he seems intoxicated, as he plops down into the bus seat in front of me, in the seats that face inward. So he's facing me diagonally.

The bus starts moving again. After a moment or so, he notices the rabbit ear guy at the back of the bus, and he begins loudly speaking verbal assaults, of a homophobic nature, at the guy. He calls him a fucking faggot. He tells him he looks stupid, and that he's gonna get what's coming to him. I can't believe people still say these things. I can't imagine that bus driver doesn't hear it, because it's loud. But nobody says anything. I don't say anything. The guy tries to make a connection with me, by "clarifying" that he's not speaking to me (I was in direct line of fire), but to the person behind me. He informs me that "it had to be said." Apparently he's doing a public service here.

I am angry. But I don't say anything. What I want to do is tell him to stop it. Or to ask him why he is bothering a complete stranger on a bus. But I am non-confrontational. I don't say anything. I just sit there, mad.

And then he gets off the bus. The moment is over.

As I sit there, my mind wanders to "I wonder what would Brian have done?"

Brian (not his real name) is a friend of mine. From time to time, Brian will relate a story of some encounter that happened, usually where he stumbles into a situation where some wrong is being done by someone. And Brian always gets involved. If you drop litter on the street, Brian will tell you to pick it up. If you do something really rude or obnoxious, Brian would not hesitate to inform you that you should not be speaking that way. In some cases, his stories sound like he's even done things that could present a danger to himself. But it comes from this place of altruism and ethical standards. And, whether he's endangering himself or not, the reality is that he's doing the kind of things that will make people applaud (although this is not something he seeks in any way). And often, I think he may even succeed in making the wrongdoer think twice about their behavior.

I try to imagine what Brian would have done.

And I think about what I did... nothing.

And I wonder... did I do enough?

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