Talk to (Some) Strangers MAG

By Frances, Woodbury, NY

      I was standing at the corner of 66th and Broadway, waiting to cross on a typically busy New York City day. A woman approached from my right, pushing a baby stroller. I watched her and silently cooed over her adorable child; he couldn’t have been more than three. I watched his mother push the stroller into the busy street. I saw her, and I thought, Oh, no, she’s going to get hit. Yet I paused for five seconds before reaching out to her.

Five seconds was one second too late.

In my mind, I could see it all: the yellow taxi smashing into them, the woman losing hold of the stroller, her body flying in a perfect arc, the stroller and child falling in different directions, each crashing to the ground and lying still. I could see the trickle of red oozing onto the pavement, feel the horror of not knowing what to do, what to say, what to think.

“What are you doing?” a man snapped. His voice brought me back to reality: the man had come out of nowhere, grabbed the woman’s arm, and jerked her back just in time to avoid the speeding taxi. The woman was shocked. She had been unaware of her near death. The man glared at her, eyes narrowed in disapproval. Was he relieved that he had stopped them in time? Was he annoyed that the woman seemed so absent-minded? She did not even thank him. He merely grumbled under his breath. The woman pulled her arm loose and moved away from her savior.

They will probably never meet again.

Meanwhile, I stood, merely an observer of the whole scenario. I saw this grumpy man become a hero for the day; he saved two lives. He certainly wasn’t like Superman or any other comic-book hero - he did not have nerves of steel, or a body with great muscles. He did not smile kindly upon those he rescued. He actually looked angry that the woman was not paying attention. Hands in pockets, he walked away from the scene without a second glance.

I didn’t pay attention to the man as he walked away from that fated spot. Instead, I stared at the woman and child. Now that little boy can grow up. He’ll never know the blow that life almost bestowed upon him. His mother may tell him at some point, “Oh, you know, we almost got hit by a car once,” but what are the chances he would actually care, since he was alive? I, however, the silent stranger who just stood there, who saw everything and did nothing, I was affected more than that little boy may ever be. I saw all the events ... I knew what was going to happen, that the woman would have been hit. I saw, and those around me saw. And so the question came to me, the one that haunted me for the rest of the day: Why didn’t I do anything immediately? Why did I wait for five seconds? Perhaps it was slow reflexes. But then I realized that a part of it was ... I was afraid. Afraid that I could have been wrong about my prediction: What if I had pulled her back but she was going to stop anyway? What if she got annoyed by my action? What if I looked like a fool?

Hours later, I could still see that scene fresh in my mind. I thought about our society, and the way I have been raised. I looked around the subway, noticing empty seats between people, and all those who chose to stand for 15 minutes rather than sit next to strangers. I felt the dead silence in the subway car more than ever before, with each inhabitant’s aura screaming, “You leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.”

Kids grow up with the warning that if they talk to strangers, they will end up getting kidnapped and never be seen again. There is some truth to that, but it is this discomfort that made me pause for those few seconds and not help someone, not save someone.

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This article has 4 comments.

i love this so much!

on Jul. 12 2014 at 8:17 pm
readlovewrite SILVER, Greensboro, North Carolina
7 articles 1 photo 58 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Be quick to listen, and slow to speak, and even slower to judge."

This is very well written and so true!  I just got back from the Dominican Republic, and it is such a different society there.  In a sense it felt like everyone was more physically connected with and Invested in everyone else!  If only we lived like that.

lovebug1234 said...
on Jan. 17 2013 at 2:10 pm
hey wats up??

on Mar. 11 2010 at 10:09 pm
That was amazing. so much thoght and connection.... very inspiring. You are a great writer!


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