Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Street Witness

You see so much more when you ride a bicycle. And as more of us ride, the more will be seen.

More “eyes on the street” can make a difference in small ways.

Today, for instance, I was pedaling through Hillsdale on my way home from working out at the Southwest Community Center. A thin, slightly disheveled forty-ish fellow was standing alone at the bus stop in front of Papa John’s pizza.

As I approached him, a patrol car cruised by, and the guy at the bus stop inexplicably flipped off the two officers in the car, a man and a woman. They noticed and decided they weren’t about to let the obscenity pass, so they pulled into the parking lot and circled back to the guy at the stop.

At this point I figured someone might need a witness, so I decided to wait for the bus at the stop.

The male officer was the driver, who, on extracting himself from the squad car, turned out to be formidably large and rotund. His partner was half his size.

He did the talking to the thin man.

“Were you signaling us for something?” said the officer, glancing up to see me watching in the background.

“No, I was just waving at someone across the street,” lied the rumpled man.

“Oh, we thought we saw you making an obscene gesture our way,” said the officer.

“Nope, I was just waving.”

“Let’s hope so. Well, okay, then have a good day.”

And with that the officers got back in the car and pulled off.

I probably should have pulled off myself, but I wanted the man to know that someone else besides the cops knew he was lying.

“You flipped them off,” I said.

“No I didn’t, besides, what business is it of yours?”

“You flipped them off and then you lied to them.”

“Hey why do you care what I did?”

“I came over here to witness how they would react.”

I knew this guy, based on his behavior so far, was going to have trouble making the mental and emotional leap from seeing me as a busy-body to accepting me as someone who might actually have helped him.

So I push away on my bicycle and left him to his deceptions and dangerous impulses.

And that was the end of this little street scene.

Looking back on it, I’m not sure what else might have happened if I hadn’t been riding by and decided to become a bystander/witness. I’d like to think nothing. The cop had an inspired open-ended line about “signaling.”

Would the cops have behaved differently had I not been there? Is there a law on the books about flipping off the police? Should the cops have ignored the guy? Should I have ignored the guy? Did he, could he, learn anything from the encounter?

What I learned is that it’s good to have “eyes on the street.”

The more, the better — for all kinds of reasons.

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Anonymous LeeLa said...

Perhaps a friendly "hello" wave from the police would have been more appropriate.

Or maybe a peace sign...

Honestly, we all need to be more civil. What ever happened to "where there is hatred, let me bring peace"...


7:05 PM  

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