Just stay out of it.

24 February 2012

I'm tired, but I want to write this.  So many posts have been lost because I put them off for a day.  And then another day.  And another.  That's what happened with the P4A night.  I really wanted to recount it bloggularly because it was such a fantastic evening, and then I let it go too long and now the essence of those feelings – I just would not be able to explain the night with the justice it deserves.  But let me tell you what happened today.

Today I went downtown.  Arrived in the afternoon, hung out until evening.  I was walking back from Spring Street.  I like to sit around in the cafés there.  Anyway, yes, so walking down 7th.  Which is one of the less-sketch streets, I would say, if you want to get back to Figueroa.  If you're having trouble visualizing what I'm talking about, just pull up downtown Los Angeles on Google maps.

Okay, walking east on 7th.  Got my headphones in.  And I see this guy a couple paces in front of me – he's holding up a bottle of Sprite.  And then he's dumping it on some girl's head.  At first I think, did this wacko just pour Sprite on a complete stranger?  Because the girl was completely ignoring him.  I imagined myself as the victim.  How would I react if some random guy came up behind me and poured soda over my head?  Would I ignore it to avoid confrontation?  Just keep walking.

I was catching up to the two of them, and it turned out that they must have known each other.  Some argument was brewing, and other people on the sidewalk were darting out of the way as the guy lunged at her.  It crossed my mind to ask the girl if she was okay.  If I was being harassed in the street, I'd want someone else to interfere.  But then I don't want to get involved.  What if this guy lashes out at me?  I didn't know what the situation was.  I didn't know what would happen.  So I put my head down; I kept walking.  I passed them.

I was hardly a block away when the screaming started.  I turned around, but there were so many people behind me that had also stopped.  But everyone seemed to be looking.  No one seemed to be helping this poor woman.  Who kept screaming and screaming.  I guess maybe the guy had grabbed her or threatened her or something?  Were they boyfriend and girlfriend in a fight?  I don't know.  But the next thing I saw was two policemen with guns running across the street.  And then the soda-pouring guy was on the ground.  Guns were pointed at him.

And it was.  I dunno.  I mean, I had had a pretty good day downtown and then this happens and it just shakes you up.  I was upset because I didn't help the girl.  Even though it was probably best that I stayed out of it.  But that's what every other person on the street must have been thinking too.  Just stay out of it.  What if the cops weren't right there?  Would we all have let this woman be assaulted in broad daylight?  All of us walking by, scooting out of the way of the commotion?

I know this happens everywhere.  But I can't help blaming LA for—for what?  For making me behave this way?  For having people that will not stop to help someone?  I dunno.  This was just a thing that happened that I didn't want fading away.


  1. Marion, I think it's best for you to not beat yourself up over what happened. You didn't do anything wrong.

    Sure, people would love to say they'd jump in and help an assault victim in need, but when it comes down to witnessing the assault, doubt is most always going to creep in the mind.

    You see the attacker, he's intimidating, you're confused as to what's going on, and you are also unsure if he has a weapon. There is a strong possibility that he could turn on you. And that's what happened in your case; you had no idea about the important variables.

    Hindsight is 20/20 and it makes it easy, looking back at situations, as humans, to beat ourselves up over what coulda/shoulda happened. Your action or inaction didn't cause anyone to get hurt.

    The only smart thing you could have done was call the police if things got out of hand and the police just happened to be there which was wonderful.

    I'm glad no one got hurt. :)

  2. When I went to Paris this past summer, we were walking back from the Eiffel Tower really late at night, when it was already closing up and people were being shuffled off the tower. We walked back to the hotel because it was only a couple of blocks away. The streets were lit up with the lamplights, but it was still kind of eerie how dark and broody the streets looked (is that offensive to the aesthetically pleasing dreams girls have about Paris? Sorry, Parisian dreams).

    As we were crossing a street, I heard people angrily yelling in French, laughing, and then I heard someone screaming. My heart raced and I turned around and saw a girl in the middle of a large circle of men and when I heard her scream again I whipped my head away from them, and my stomach turned when I heard the strangely familiar sound of a punch. And she kept screaming and they kept hitting her and I stopped in the middle of the street and I started crying.

    I tugged on my dad's shirt and asked him to do something. He kept walking. I hated myself... and him, for not stopping. "Dad, why didn't you stop?" And he told me that I "didn't know what and why it was happening". He told me that I didn't know who they were and why they were beating her up and most importantly, if they were dangerous. It made sense to me at the moment, but I still quietly shed some tears the rest of the walk, the girl's screams were still loud and kept echoing through the empty city. I couldn't sleep that night, and I felt horrible, but I decided that there was truly nothing I, an extremely short, naive girl could have done to stop eight big, muscular guys when there wasn't any police around at midnight.

  3. I don't have enough life experience in a big city like LA to know from living it, but you exhibited normal bystander apathy. Most "heroes" that choose to get involve have an inherent need to do so, while others will innocently pass knowing 1) it's not their business and 2) someone else will probably stop to help.

    I didn't mean to psychoanalyze, but Piliavin's study on the matter was a topic I covered in my psych course this fall and I always enjoy being able to apply it.