Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Seeing the in between

This morning as I rode Muni towards the financial district, I came to the realization that I'm seeing the in between of people's lives.  In the suburbs, you see people at destinations.  You see them walking about a grocery store.  You have people into your home.  You see them at desks.  Sometimes, rarely, you see people in their cars at stop lights in their in between.  Those moments in the suburbs sometimes reveal head bobbing and lip syncing to Justin Bieber.  I've seen some makeup application in the in between.  Everyone once in a blue moon, you'll see something extraordinary.

But here in the city, the in between of people's lives run all over the sidewalk.  I saw a guy in a neon blue blazer and Reeboks carrying his electric guitar down the street while brushing his borderline mullet.  I heard the guy behind me on Muni rapping out loud with Young Money (I had to google that one, all I really heard was him saying "wife beater" a few times).  The other day, we saw a woman in a very short dress and thigh high boots making a phone call as we at our Sunday brunch.  So much of their in between lives are revealed that you start to make assumptions about the rest of their lives.

On my way home from the Dogpatch neighborhood last week, I saw a man and woman board the Muni with me.  At first, I thought the woman was a young boy wearing a hoodie. The grown man was making me nervous though as he guided the person into the car with his hand on the back of her neck and sat her down.  All of her body language said that she did not want to be there.  The man started caressing her, sliding his hand up her thigh and nuzzling her neck.  She kept turning away from him but didn't try to run.  I observed this all through the reflection of the window and I contemplated what I should do.  Should I say something to him and risk that he may be violent?  Should I slip up to the driver and alert him of a situation?  Should I calmly call 911 and explain?  When the man looked away, I mouthed to the woman, "Are you ok?"  She immediately smiled and nodded.  I related the story to Mr. Palindrome when I got home and we had two conclusions.  1. She could have been scared and wanted me to not pry and make things worse for her.  2. Maybe they just had a fight, he wanted to make up, but she wasn't ready.  I pray it was 2.  If it was the second option, they got caught on the Muni in their in between.   The private moment would have happened in the car or elevator in the suburbs, but it happened here in public.

What would you have done in that situation?  Are you a people watcher?  Do you observe other in the in between or do you involve yourself ever?


  1. Wow, that's a tough situation. I think you did the right thing, and I probably would have done the same. I really hope that she was telling the truth when she said she was okay!

  2. Best post ever! You should tell more stories. No idea what I would have done...

  3. I usually people watch when we're on vacation. I think you did the right thing in that situation, I don't know what I would have done but I hope that it was #2. You just never know what's going on in the life of others.

  4. I think you did the right thing. There is always a (3), (4), and (5) in life. She could have just gotten bad news and was uncomfortable/sad with life. There are so many things that could have happened.

    I witness drunk college student fights when walking the dog at night. When it is loud/obnoxious or maybe even abusive I will stand and stare - letting them know they have an audience usually brings them back to reality.

  5. @Hannah - that's so true - there could have been so many reasons. I think I thought of the one alternative to make me feel better - that there was a reasonable explanation that would work out nicely. I really hope she was ok too.

  6. This reminds me of one of those "What Would You Do?" set-ups.. Good for you, Melinda, for doing SOMETHING - a lot of people would have seen an uncomfortable situation and looked away and forgotten about it. I think that Hannah is right - it could have been anything, and you did what you could in the moment.