What would you do?

Here’s my real post for today.

This evening I walked out onto the street after dance practice and headed for the parking lot.  This meant walking through a crowd of people outside the church, which I think has a drop-in centre associated with it.

The crowd had been there, just hanging out, when I’d arrived, but right now they were arranged in a focused bubble with two guys at one side, fighting.  Well, strictly speaking, one of them was definitely winning, pummelling the other one.

When I see people in a fist fight, and it’s not often, it makes me feel panicky inside.  I never play-wrestled as a kid, nestled as I was between two sisters, all three of us girly-girls.  It’s no surprise I’ve never been in a physical fight.  But when I see one, I feel like a heel, because I want to do something about it and yet I can’t.

The people forming this bubble were numerous, and every single one was standing there motionless.  I’m pretty darn sure they weren’t all strangers to each other, but no-one was doing anything but watching.  Actually that’s not true; there was one guy who was using a loud voice to tell the guys to lay off, which was something… but apparently not very convincing to the parties involved.

Maybe this was a fight that was a long time coming, and maybe there were compelling reasons behind it.  Still, as a non-violent person and a teacher, I have very strong instincts saying this should not be happening, especially not out on the street.  People are great at ignoring things that make them uncomfortable, never stepping into clearly abusive situations because, well, it’s just not our business.

But that’s scary.  How much violence might we witness and ignore with that excuse?  Permanent damage could be done right in front of our eyes and we would just hurry on our way.

We teach our students that if you stand by and watch bullying occur and do nothing, you’re part of the problem.  We tell them to report to someone they trust.

In these few seconds that I was a participant in the situation, I wondered what to do.  Obviously I’m not going to step in physically – that would be stupid.  I don’t know either of these guys and they’re not listening even if I could think of something to say.  Here’s what I did instead: I walked right through the middle of the bubble, and with a purposeful frown, conspicuously flipped open my phone.  By the time I reach the opposite edge and looked back, the fight had stopped.  (I didn’t actually phone anyone – what would I have said?)

I don’t know if my actions had anything to do with that – my guess is probably not.  But I wanted to show anyone who happened to notice that this situation was not invisible to the public.  Just in case that made a difference to a guy who was pounding another guy’s face.

What would you have done?  Seriously, I’d be very interested to know.

7 thoughts on “What would you do?

  1. Darci says:

    Ohhh.. that’s a tough one.. humm.. well.. I’m pretty brazen.. but not stupid (at least not most of the time LOL) And having 2 teens who have been “beaten up” (Patrick received a fractured jaw and Amanda was left a lovely bite mark and fat lip and bruised ribs) while other kids surrounded them and pushed them back into the fight when they tried to leave, I guess I would have stepped right into the middle of the crowd that wasn’t doing anything, got out my phone, in a very ticked off and loud voice, state that I was calling the police, then I would make the call.

    • dilovely says:

      Good for you, mama bear. What would you say to the police? Because I would have made the call if I’d had something better to say than “Two guys were fighting and now they’ve stopped.” I didn’t know any information about either of them, and would have been really nervous to ask…

  2. Darci says:

    Heh.. well I probably would have said that two guys were fighting, if there was blood, what each were wearing, what vehicles if any they got into.. what direction.. stuff like that I guess.. I certainly wouldn’t have been “hey buddy!! What’s your name?” Because we both know what answer that would elicit!! LOL

  3. Darci says:

    And lets not forget, that I was a K9 Security Guard in Hamilton/Toronto so my “cojones” got a little bigger thanks to that experience 😉

  4. bev says:

    This is hard! It took me years to get up enough gumption to start telling people who were sitting in their parked cars with the engines running that they should turn them off. Some have turned them off, mostly they just look at me malignly and keep on keeping on. I’ve also called out to people I see littering something like, “Don’t throw that down! Littering is illegal!”, and the few times I’ve done that (rarely am I privileged to watch the littering actually happening) the person has picked it up, but I’m pretty sure it was thrown down again as soon as the person thought s/he was unobserved.

    And these are relatively unviolent, low-stakes situations. With a fight the decision would be harder, since it could involve personal injury to myself. I think you did a good thing, and I rather suspect it had an influence on the duration of the fight. The coincidence was pretty striking. I’m most likely to remember the guy who had been through an AVP workshop in prison and, the next time he saw a prison fight starting, he hollered, “Stop!” and they stopped. To his shock. A woman’s voice might be heeded more than a man’s in such a situation.

    • Di says:

      I wish I were the engine-idling police. I would give out lots of tickets.

      Beth and I were just talking about that “Stop!” story today! It made quite an impression on all of us, I guess.

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