Friday, July 23, 2010

What Would You Do?: Muni Edition

Let's play ABC Primetime's "What Would You Do?" for a second.

(Incidentally, ABC, what's up with the "" domain names? ESPN, too. Stuck in 1997, are we?)

OK, so let's say you're on the, oh, I don't know, 48 Quintara at around 5:30 yesterday (or the L Taraval or, fuck, the 6 train to the Bronx for all I care) and you take a seat near the back and then realize you're sitting in the middle of a group of baggy-white-t-shirted skateboard-holding kids. Like 4 or 5 of them, maybe 13 years old, maybe 14. The first thing you notice is the heartwarming (for a San Franciscan) multicultiness of this group - there's a white kid, and a vaguely Hispanic kid, and a black kid, and man, it's like MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech brought to life.

Then the next thing you notice is that the Bieber-haired white kid is very slowly and deliberately carving something into the seat with some kind of implement. Like, obviously defacing the bus seat with whatever kind of graffiti 13-year-old white kids are motivated to write these days.

Or let's take another (also actually true) example that also happened on the 48 Quintara on another day with a different Pack O'Yoots (though older, maybe mid to late teens) and one of them is using a fat black magic marker or whatever to mark one of the windows with a big, looping tag.

What do you do?

I'm serious. I never know how to react in these situations. I know that Muni Belongs To All Of Us and that We As Citizens must stand up to protect out property, but I also know that people get killed trying to stop this kind of thing. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's rare for that to happen and blah blah blah but IT ONLY TAKES ONCE when it's happening to you.

So what's the call here? What do you do? Say, "Hey, you damn kids, stop messing up my bus!" or whip out the cell and call 911 or go up and talk to the driver or what? Furthermore, what's most likely to avoid me getting hit in the back of the skull with a skateboard?

Cause I'll tell you what actually happened: nothing. I didn't do anything. The lady next to me didn't do anything. The semi-yuppie guy reading The Economist didn't do anything. Now I feel vaguely bad about it! I don't know.


Unknown said...

Lately I have been mouthing off to yoots like that, but then they just get lippy right back and it doesn't really solve the problem. If I carried a billy club, things might be different.

Anonymous said...

This happened to me on the 22. Two teenage girls were playing tic tac toe in sharpie on the seats. I said something like, "you know someone is going to have a really bad day trying to clean up your mess." They got off at the next stop and called me a bitch on their way out.

Rocco said...

you told me not to interfere in situations like this. remember when i yelled at that guy in the lower haight for taking my parking space and he came after me? well, lesson learned.

Tamagosan said...

Tough sitch. Nevermind that in middle school, riding the 24 for my daily commute, I thought they were sooooooo cool. But yeah, now that I'm older and realize that I somehow some way pay for those buses, that situation commands a different attitude.

I've seen well-dressed, well-meaning men say something as they were taking pictures of the offenders get totally ridiculed. And Kate's right, lippy don't always cut it.

But it feels so weird to say nothing at all, so what I have found interesting in terms of hey-I'm-actually-saying-something-and-nothing-will-really-work-anyway is to ridicule their skill. So I've actually called out the taggers, saying things like "If you're gonna tag on the bus, you could practice beforehand. Your shit looks hella sloppy and there's no skill whatsoever in that underline after the last letter."

Yes, dorky, but it always seems to catch them off-guard. I might get a "Fuck you, bitch" but I like to think they might think about it first and subconsciously view public space as public and question their own contributions, etc, etc, idealism, etc, naivité, etc.


arjuna said...

i'm with tamagosan on this one. obviously the kids don't get that this is part of what increases the cost of their muni pass, so trying to reach them on a level they DO understand (that they ain't got the skillz, yo') is probably the better route.
but, be careful... some people take that shit pretty personal, and calling out some kids crappy hand in front of his friends might earn you a shanking.

Laura said...

I take the same approach as Tamagosan. Have done this on various occasions and get more shock then 'tude. This way, i look like a fan of street art as opposed to a stuffy suit working for the man...gotta keep my street cred some how!

DrFeelgood said...

Animals know no color. That group would have ripped your throat out in a multicultural beat-down. The time to correct those bastards would be about 50 years ago when their daddies could have still tried to be their Father and guided them away from being the bane of a blog story on how this world is going to hell by degrees.

Hell, I'm just kidding. You could've stepped in, applied gentle correction and they would have sheepishly cowed to you, Beaver Cleaver-style. They're all basically good, you know. :)