Monday, March 02, 2015

Red-Line Aggression

Mary Mitchell recounts in the Chicago Sun-Times an experience on the Brown Line of aggressive behavior towards her and her having to resort to using the Red Call Button to summon the operator.  (

I agree with Mary Mitchell. It is extremely important that CTA users stand up for each other. When a wolf enters your train car you can act like a sheep or you can act like a cat. But the last thing you want to act like is a mouse.

One should immediately take notice of loud aggressive behavior. I'm not suggesting that you jump up and become a hero, but you need to be ready to back up any hero that does emerge. Mary was a hero here and did exactly the right thing. Hitting the call button can take courage. No one wants to be the cause of everyone else being delayed. But aggressive disturbance needs to be nipped in the bud or like graffiti it grows like cancer.

I'm a 68 yo man. At ten pm one night two weeks ago on the red line between Fullerton and my exit at Granville I had the opportunity to face three aggressive young women. They had hounded an older man and forced him to seek respite by going to the next car through the connecting doors. He was too incapable to succeed. So he found himself cowered across from me as they hounded him.

When I suggested that the young women back off they screamed at me to mind my own business. I told them that whenever someone on a train was making others uncomfortable that it became everyone's business. They screamed at me to shut up. They called me names. Very intense and unpleasant.

But this was not a dangerous situation. They were young women, tough yes, and with gang-like (I hesitate to use that proto-racist phrase) association amongst them. But they were not physically assaulting the old-man and their aggression toward me was only verbal. The fact that it did go on so long was an indication of its lack of real danger.

However it is clear that several other people were paying attention. Everyone else stayed out of it, yes. But I suspect that my stepping into it would have garnered me some back-up if it had escalated.
But here's where it actually gets more interesting. A young women sitting near me with her head buried in her headphones turned out to actually be paying attention. At some point she removed her head phones and asked if I had ever been groped.
See, the reason they were hounding the old man was because they were accusing him of improper sexually motivated behavior.

Truth presented in an Instant court-room drama is impossible to discern. But I am willing to hope that the hounding punishment meted out by the young women was commensurate with the severity of his alleged groping.

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