You wanna know what pisses me off?

I just got home from my daily BART ride. I should be cooking dinner, but there’s no way that’s gonna happen until I write what happened down. You ever get like that? Have to write something down so that you can get on with your day? Just me? Damn, ok.

On today’s episode of “what happens when Airial rides public transit” (there really should be a whole webseries based on this, I swear) a child predator almost got his ass handed to him by one very pissed off mama bear.

So the BART was delayed today, making the early afternoon cars more crowded than usual. Normally at this time of day it’s teenagers riding home from school or parents on their way to pick up their kids from school- like me. Plus there is an A’s game so baseball fans in green and yellow filled the cars too. I get on the train, a man pushes past me. I notice that he’s in a hurry to get the interior doors. Maybe he really really wants to find a less crowded car, I think. Then at the next stop more people get on and I end up shuffling towards the back and who do I see, man-in-a-hurry. Except now, he’s not in a hurry. Now he’s adopted the slouchy stance of a teenager. Why? Because he is chatting up a girl. A girl who is obviously the same age as my kids. 13 or 14. She’s tiny. She’s young. And this grown ass man is coming on to her. He’s older than me. Well, maybe he’s the same age as me and just not aging well.

Fucking Hell. I’m watching their interaction. She’s got that smile going. The one where you hope that if you’re nice enough the creepy guy will like you enough to leave you alone. The smile of look I’m playing along, please don’t hurt me. The smile of I’m not threatening in any way can you please see me as a person. Yeah. That smile. He’s complimenting her on her clothes, her hair, her shoes. She’s wearing sneakers and pajama pants. Her hair is “I’ve been in school all day” untidy. She’s a fucking kid.

I step closer to them. Closer than necessary. I’m staring at him. This is where I love love love being a tall thick as a tank woman. I’m in flip flops and we’re eye level. I’m sizing him up. My shoulders are stronger than his. If I stand just a lil straighter he’ll be looking up at me. For now, I know the look I’ve got on my face. I know exactly what my expression is saying. I see you. You’ve been made. He’s stopped turning his head in my direction but he’s staring at me from the corner of his eye. I know that because she follows his gaze and looks up at me. I swear she’s barely 5 feet tall.

I’ve done this before. I soften my expression and make eye contact with her. She gives me the look. I step closer. He’s telling her to text him. He’s asking if her mom is waiting for her at the station she’s getting off at. He’s acting like he doesn’t care. He’s acting like it’s all so super casual. She’s smiling that smile. I shift my position so that my bag is between them. She immediately steps around me, like a bunny hopping over barbed wire. I stay put. Wait to see if he tries to push past me. Wait to see if he says excuse me. Wait to see if he’s gonna tap me on the shoulder. Part of me wishing he would. I’m loud. Loudest person I know actually. The sonic boom that would have resulted from him tapping my shoulder would have shook the train off it’s tracks. He doesn’t.

Adults who target children hate being seen by other adults who know what they are.

I walk to the middle of the car where she is standing face perfectly blank.

I ask her, “Do you know that guy?”

“No!” She says her eyes widening, voice lowered, “I was like, ‘Can you stop talking to me?’ the whole time!”

“He shouldn’t have been talking to you. I’m sorry he did that. It’s not your fault.”

“He just asked me if I knew someone who could braid his hair, out of nowhere.”

“You sure don’t know anyone,” I say raising my voice, looking back over my shoulder to where he’s watching us.

We get off the train at the same stop. I turn to see if he’s getting off. He’s not. I stand and watch him from the platform as the train slides away. I see you.

I learned to do this from my mother. My mom gives no fucks about the social order when it comes to protecting children from creepy ass motherfuckers. The social order requires silence and looking away and not interfering. The etiquette of our culture demands we not presume bad things are happening when in fact they’re happening right in front of our fucking faces. Not one other person in the packed train car lifted an eyebrow at that grown man chatting up a very young teenager.

And man that pisses me off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Ed O’Neill

    Right on, Airial, right on! That’s the way of a healthy tribe.

  • Ken

    Keep doing it Mama Bear.

  • C Petra

    Role model. I promise to do this if the situation presents. Thanks!

  • Cynthia Nini Banks

    You are my hero. I will do the same.

  • makalove

    Just wanted to let you know that for some reason your amazing piece is not able to be shared on Facebook because it has been reported as abusive. :(

    Thank you, THANK YOU for being an active bystander, and making sure others hear that it’s more than just okay, it’s IMPORTANT to practice being an active bystander.

  • OkieShell

    I’m not physically intimidating by any stretch (5’4″, 115 lbs.) and I would have done the exact same thing, only louder. Thank you for looking out for that child and thank you for writing.

  • Rochelle Robinson

    i actually found the link to this article on facebook tonight…so i’m not sure why it was not available to folks a couple of days ago. i was also able to share it with others.

  • Pablo M

    Goddamn, Airial. If I had any standing to be proud of you, I would be. I guess I’m trying to say: Your mama oughtta be, and I’m proud to call you a friend.

  • Desire’e Kealohapauole Smith

    Thank you. I thank you as young girl who needed that help once but stood on her own. Thank you as parent, hopeful that others will speak up my kids as I do for theirs. Thank you as parent, woman, person, just thank you.

  • Pamela Slim

    Way to go, very proud of you for doing this.

  • blisschick

    Thanks for telling the story. SO many of the tragedies we hear about (like the Columbine shooting) happened because people hoped, for all the right reasons, that horrible things weren’t about to happen. But there’s optimism and there’s denial. Thank you, thank you for stepping in and saving that girl.

    I’ve also told my polite kids to pitch a huge, hairy tantrum if someone approaches them like this. It’s hard, though. The instinct is to be polite and hope everything turns out OK.

  • Tom Tiernan

    You did the right thing. Predators hate the light. They prefer the darkness where it’s easier to do evil. Thank you for caring so much about children and so little about social norms