That’s what the young man said to me as I was riding home on the west branch of the CTA Blue Line at 10:30pm last Wednesday. I got on a bustling but not-quite-full train at Racine and sat down next to the window in the last completely open pair of seats. I opened my library book and started reading.
A stop or two later the young man sat next to me, leaned in closely and spoke very softly. He started by complimenting the shirt I was wearing and I thanked him. It was obvious that he was going to start working me over for some money, but I never expected what he said next:
People who don’t help when other people ask for help deserve to get their faces beat in, wouldn’t you agree?
And he continued from there, saying basically the same things several different ways. He spoke so quietly and calmly that it was difficult to hear everything but the threat was clear (however passively communicated): I was going to be hit up for money at the end of this speech, and I better pay If I didn’t want to be hurt. The train was pretty full at this time, but there didn’t seem like anything I could do. Though he was calm in his delivery, it was clear that he was ANGRY. My mind was racing. The last thing i wanted to do was pull out my wallet (though I later realized I had no cash anyway). Before our kickball game that night I took the change out of my pockets and put it in my bag, so when he finally got to the punchline and asked for money I rummaged through the bag and coughed up over a dollar’s worth of quarters and dimes. He asked if it was all I had. I said yes.
He pulled out a lighter and started heating the filter end of a cigarette he was carrying. I asked what he was doing (I was a little afraid he was going to burn me). He told me he was burning the germs off the end of the filter cause it was a cigarette he found. He got off at the next stop. Relief.
There are so many things I hate about this situation, here are a few:
- I like to help people in need but I don’t like to threatened.
- I love public transit but it’s not always safe.
- What a terrible way to end a great day.
- This kind of thing especially bothers Allison. I don’t like things that cause her distress.
Here is what I’ve learned:
- Keep a couple of ones in my bag for situations like this.
- Don’t leave an open seat next to me on the train late at night.
- Previously learned: don’t use a phone or any electronics after 9pm.