What would you do?

I am a student here at PSU just like you and I would like to know what you would have done?

Yesterday Feb. 13, I took MAX into PSU and returned from PSU, just like I do 2x per week. But this trip, I encountered a very uncomfortable situation on MAX that could have ended up with violence, or at the least, a very tense moment which would have left me and some other passengers in varying states of trauma.

On my trip into PSU, around 3:45, Max stopped at the 82nd street depot and picked up some people. Three of these were youths- probably 16-19 years of age, male. But these three were very loud…I mean they were shouting well above the normal din of a busy MAX commute. One chose to run up and down the car, jump up and grasp the stainless poles and swing around. His friends would cheer him on. At first I just ignored this rowdy behavior. But…it did not stop. When, like me, most people were ignoring this rude behavior the youth escalated his behavior. This signaled a change to me. This young man, encouraged on by his two peers, began to try and provoke a response from the rest of us. He began to make “charges” at some people, as if he was going to purposely make contact with people. I looked around and some of the passengers were now worried…you could see it in their faces. I was sitting next to a window and had a young lady sitting beside me. She was becoming upset. I decided to do something. I made an effort and caught the eye of one of the young people who was cheering on his physical friend. He was maybe five feet away. Our eyes met. I was not smiling. At first he looked seriously at me and then he did something I did not expect. He laughed. He laughed right at me. I felt the blood rush to my face. I felt my fingers curl into tight fists. I began to feel my legs move…but then I stopped. Was this action I was about to take going to solve anything? Instead of helping, protecting the others around me, could I actually be escalating this (now) dangerous situation? Luckily I did not have to contemplate those questions very long for we were pulling into the Lloyd Center depot and the youths made their departure.

When those three young men left the MAX car you could almost feel the sense of relief that blew through our section of MAX. Whew! But I was shaking. Really physically shaking. Not from fear but from anger and adrenaline. The young lady who sat beside me softly put her hand upon mine and just smiled up at me. And I felt better.

One thought on “What would you do?

  1. MIke,
    When I see those videos on the news of girls beating up girls on the MAX, and so on, I like to think I’d put a stop to THAT kind of thing, and I’d like to think that in the situation you had, I would speak up. But who knows if I would have been any different? I always catch myself in those moments enough to measure my own safety (3 against 1) vs. doing something about it. I can’t say that, for sure, I would have reacted any differently. 82nd street stop is my stop, so maybe I would have seen it as my “home”.
    But one thing for all of us to keep in mind on the Tri Met system is that often when we speak up, all the others thinking the same thing on the MAX or bus with THEN speak up, if just one person is brave enough; like the lady who touched your shoulder. I twice defended woman or girls on the bus, and THEN others on the bus spoke up after I did. One time I calmed down some teenage bullies. Another time a guy slapped my cheek when I, basically, accused him of inappropriate behavior towards a small girl. I don’t know why I didn’t hit him back. But, of course, then someone else on the bus told me, “I was right behind ya!”—after he got off the bus. That was many years ago.
    The second thing to keep in mind, like you said, is that it’s only gotten so bad on Tri Met, because, in this town, people just don’t speak up. I don’t see this kind of lack-of-peer-pressure environment on buses and subways in other cities, like Seattle or D.C. Once driving around Pioneer Square in my car on New Year’s Eve, I peered into a MAX where someone was GRAFFITTING inside, right in front of everyone, and no one said anything to him! Another time, during an anti-war protest downtown, someone was graffitting the side of a TriMet bus that was stuck in the crowd. That time, I stopped him, finding myself pushing him away from the bus, while scolding him. That could have escalated, but didn’t. He, of course, asked why I wasn’t letting him graffitti the bus (and no one inside the bus or the driver was doing anything about it), and I said, “it affects our quality of life!”, to which he laughed, and told me something about having a bachelor’s or master’s degree, as if I had somehow insulted his intelligence by not letting him graffiti the bus.
    So Portlanders have to learn to speak up; in general.
    hope this helps,
    theo burke

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