"Leben-slanger-schick-sal-schatz is not something that develops over time. It is something that happens instantaneously. It courses through you like the water of a river after a storm — filling you and emptying you all at once. You feel it throughout your body. In your hands. In your heart. In your stomach. In your skin…
…If you have to think about it, you have not felt it.
Everyone finds it eventually. You just never know when, or where.”
- HIMYM 8x01
When I look over, the man’s hand is already stuck, locked at the wrist between the subway doors.
At first, I just see the hand, like I’m looking at it through a telescope. It looks foreign and it takes a moment for me to realize that it’s a hand, alone, by itself, I guess, because I’m not used to seeing one disembodied. My gaze rises and through the glass, I can see the hand is attached to a raggedy man. He has a beard and torn clothing. He is black. He is unshowered and unshaven. His right hand is on the inside of the train. His body is on the outside.
Then, I look around. The train, an A uptown local, is pretty full even though it’s approaching midnight. Everyone has a seat and there’s room for people to stand comfortably. No one is looking at the man and his hand.
“Help!” the caught man yells, but it’s weak. About a dozen riders near by hear it though because they slightly turn their heads. I can see clearly that he’s homeless, but because of his almost non-reaction to his own danger, it strikes me that it’s also possible he is mentally ill: He realizes his hand is caught, but he seems to lack the necessary panic to know he’s in more than passing trouble. “Help!” he says, again. It’s quieter, but still not that desperate. The train is still silent.
I edge forward on my seat. It’s been a long three minutes and the doors have not opened to release the man’s hand. Maybe the conductor doesn’t know what’s happening.
Open, in my lap, is a comic book by sociopolitical commentator Warren Ellis, one that illustrates the grime and crime of a futuristic dystopian city. The protagonist is an eccentric journalist who regularly serves as a lone vigilante. Like Rorschach from ‘Watchmen,’ he opines on the dark, filthy aspects of humanity, lamenting the dead eyes of city dwellers. It’s a sort of, “My city screams in the night” aesthetic. It’s a cliché in graphic novels.
The caught man calls out again. My heart starts to pound. I shove my book in my bag and stand up.
“He’s stuck!” I yell. “His hand is stuck!” I’m met with silence and confused stares.
The train lurches forward a bit and I’m terrified. It’s going to start moving! Then, it stops.
I imagine what’ll happen when we move: the train will probably drag the guy down the platform for a few seconds by the arm until we hit the concrete tunnel wall. Then, his body will either be smashed between the train and the tunnel, crunching his bones flat, or his wrist will snap, leaving his body on the platform and our subway car with a bleeding shoddily-severed hand for a passenger. There’s a possibility the impact and dragging could kill this man too.
My vision swims. I walk to the middle of the train. “Someone get the conductor! Can you guys see the conductor? Is there a button or — his hand is stuck! Can someone get the conductor?!”
The eyes that meet mine convey one thought: Why is this crazy woman yelling?
“Okay, I’m gonna go head up and get the conductor to open –” I scream, when the doors suddenly do open. The whole ordeal took about ten minutes. The guy’s okay and he doesn’t thank me. For some reason, I’m embarrassed for “bothering” all these people on their rides home.
I sit down. I go to re-open my comic book and I realize I’m shaking.
“i’m all messed up about it,” I later type to a friend on Facebook chat. “i get it. bystander effect, but damn. he would’ve died and they all were looking at me like i was crazy to react.”
“stupid new york,” he simply writes back. Maybe.
“The bystander effect” is a classic psychological term, coined in New York, after all. I remember an old college journalism professor trying to freak us freshmen out by telling us the story: a young woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death and raped near her apartment building. She screamed for help and no one who heard her called the police.
It was a cold night in 1964. One neighbor leaned out his window and yelled, “Leave that girl alone!” That was it.
The New York Times article had the damning, legendary headline: “Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police.”
“I didn’t want to get involved,” a neighbor was quoted as saying.
A few years ago, a study showed the number of witnesses may have been exaggerated because the layout of the building was such that all 38 people could not have seen the entire attack, but in the end, enough people heard something — and did nothing.
Harlan Ellison called them all “mother-ckers” in an article for Rolling Stone. I think that explanation is too easy to fit such a large number of bystanders. My friend Jason suggests that maybe people didn’t react or help because the man in my story was clearly homeless. Maybe they thought he didn’t matter. What if it was my hand — that of a young white woman — that’d gotten caught? Would the conductor have noticed faster? Would people have responded with concern? Would Nancy Grace have been called? I consider it. One study on Kitty Genovese’s case suggested no one helped her because in the early ‘60s, people were afraid to intervene in what they could have mistakenly thought was a domestic dispute. No one wants to make a fuss and be wrong.
In short: Don’t get involved if the danger meets the status quo. A woman screaming for help is probably just fighting with her boyfriend. A mentally ill person stuck in the train doors will probably be released by the conductor. Don’t the conductors have mirrors so they can see the doors? We don’t need to help. Seconds tick by. Minutes.
Someone will do their job. Someone else will help. I don’t have to get involved.
When I leave the train station, my cheeks are red from riding eight more stops with people staring at me for reacting. Everything outside is wet from the rain and it’s very late. I walk home in the dark, the way Kitty Genovese did in 1964. The two events are hardly comparable. In one, a woman died and in another, a homeless man was once again ignored and a twenty-something was startled out of her commuting stupor. Nothing to see here.
When I get home, I strip my clothes off and wrap myself in my comforter. I am grateful. For hours my eyes are wide open, pointed up at the ceiling. I try not to vomit.
via Thought Catalog
Interesting read. Lately, the Genovese case has been popping up everywhere for me. Ever since I first learned about it in Psychology AP, I’ve been so fascinated by the bystander effect.
Usually, when I’m on Rodeo Drive, my eyes are focused on the street. I don’t go there to shop, really. And I tend to forget about people-watching when there are so many amazing cars to gawk at, such as the R8, or the Bugatti. But today, something equally eye-pleasing caught my attention.
How someone dresses is one of the first things I notice about people. And that’s how I noticed the smartly-dressed guy.
"Psst." I nudged my friend, tilted my head at the guy in front of us, and proceeded to fawn over his dress style out loud, keeping my voice down (at least, I hope I was quiet about it).
Apparently, he and his two friends were heading to the same place as we were, because for the next block or so, they remained in front of us, and I, filled with fascination and admiration for his fashion sense, continued to eye him from behind. I wasn’t trying to be creepy. I just couldn’t divert my eyes.
Finally, as we rounded the corner, he turned around, for some reason (I hope it wasn’t because he heard me raving about his dress shirt and whatnot), and as I got a full look at his face, I felt myself being hit with a full-blown crush. Good god. Good thing I insisted on our group taking the next elevator, even though he held the elevator door for us. I don’t know what I would’ve done with myself, being trapped in such a small enclosure with him and twenty other people.
It’s been a long while since I’ve seen someone who looks as good as that. Tall, ridiculously good-looking, nice smile, good hair, the whole works. He was like a semi-mixed-yet-Japanese-Godfrey-Gao status or something. Like, a 9. Which is pretty damn high.
I’ve heard quite a few nightmare stories of people and their freshman dorm roommate, and all I can think is how lucky I was to be able to room with a friend, and that we became closer friends as a result of that. This is the girl who had put up with my stressed out moments, my occasional sleep-talkings, and even my horrible few weeks of mono. She was the one who had endured long nights with me, talked about problems over cup noodles and hot pockets, and laughed with me about many things over fruit gummies. Throughout the three years that I’ve been in college so far, she was pretty much the only one who was insanely insistent and forced me to eat when I claimed I had no time/appetite for food (no one can beat her in persuasiveness) and who made me soup when I was sick or was pulling a near all-nighter.
Nowadays, since we are no longer roommates, we rarely see each other, but it’s great to know that even after a while of not speaking or seeing each other, thanks to our own hectic schedules, we can still pick up where we had left off in a heartbeat, as if no time had passed at all. Even better, we can still rely on each other and talk about everything, through tears or laughter.
What spurred this moment of reminiscence and gratefulness? Yesterday was the first time we met up and talked in a long while, and I just felt so much better after that. Bottom line is, I truly am really grateful at how everything turned out - from how we chose each other as roommates, even though we weren’t even close in high school, to how close we have bonded together. Love her!
Life is tough for all of us, that we know. We all accept, for the most part, that at certain moments life is just going to be kind of… not that awesome. For everyone. And we’re all allowed our errant moments of complaining and we will indulge each other’s fantasies that the universe is, indeed, pre-destined — and it is destined against us. But if you are beautiful, attractive, lovely, aesthetically pleasing, or any other variant of nice to look at — there are certain things that you just shouldn’t do when in the presence of us general losers. Things you should pay attention to, if you will. And, for your convenience, I’ve compiled an easy-to-follow list of things to just avoid in polite conversation.
Don’t complain about getting hit on. I understand that perhaps, if you struck genetic gold and look totally bang-able even if you stumbled out of your apartment in jeggings and a Snuggie, it might seem like the whole entire world is out to have sex with you at all times. But the truth is, even the most homely of girls will get cat-called and lip-smacked at by the less-than-discerning masses of blue-collar workers and teenage boys. A convenience store attendant calling you “pretty girl?” Yeah, that happens to literal bridge trolls, provided they are in possession of female genitalia. If your complaints are about that kind of attention — join the club. If you’re more referring to the offers of free drinks, leniency on small tickets and fines, and general smiles and compliments from everyone around you–enjoy it while it lasts, and stop complaining about it.
Don’t put up pictures of yourself with captions like “Ughhhh looking so gross today, just woke up!!” Look, you’re not fooling anyone. We all know what we do with pictures of us that we’re actually embarrassed about. We de-tag ourselves with the speed and urgency of a Japanese Bullet Train and judge the living hell out of whatever fake friend dared to present that abomination to the masses with our names attached. We do not put them on our blogs with humblebraggy, faux-self deprecating tags on them. You look good, you’re just wearing sweatpants and have your hair in a messy bun. We get it, you look good ten seconds after you wake up. Go away.
Stop implying you didn’t get jobs because of how beautiful you are. Fine, I’ll accept this actually maybe happens occasionally — you have the unfortunate luck of running into the one person both petty and short-sighted enough not to hire the otherwise most-capable-for-the-job-in-every-way candidate just because they were intimidatingly good-looking. Maybe that happened to you — I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. But if it did, honestly, you dodged a bullet. Would you really want to work for someone like that? No. So stop.
Stop talking about how society is judging/ being mean to you. You know who gets negatively, unfairly judged on their appearance? Burn victims, the physically handicapped, the morbidly obese, the elderly, and many other groups. Not you. If someone is the kind of person who sees a handsome man or beautiful woman and thinks, “They must have an IQ of 84, as God never gives with both hands,” they are both an idiot and the kind of person who makes those judgments about everyone. I’m sure they think all ugly people are criminals and all fat people are compulsive liars… or something along those lines.
Don’t accuse women of not being your friend because of how beautiful you are. Hey, wouldn’t that be so awesome if we could blame our lack of friends on something as simple, concise, and not-our-fault as our physical appearance? Uh, yeah, no. If women consistently don’t want to hang out with you and people constantly accuse you of being vapid or shallow, maybe it’s because you’re really unfortunate to be around because of your incredibly inflated ego and sense of self-importance? And those guy friends that are so awesome to hang out with and non-judgmental? They’re waiting to weasel their way into a friend-bang so they can brag about it for a while and stop having to nod along to your stories. Just so you know.
Here’s the thing: It would be cool if this stuff didn’t matter, it really would. But, unlike what Elmo, Oprah, and the Tumblr community would have you believe, we’re not all beautiful. Sure, we’re all “beautiful” in the abstract sense of the word, but in the scientific-facial-symmetry and babies-smile-at-pictures-of-you-in-weird-studies way, we’re not all equally good looking. And that’s fine! There are many qualities that are way cooler than being attractive, and they aren’t ripped so mercilessly off our faces as we age. But for the time being, when you have that physical beauty, it is an advantage in almost every discernible way. You know this, we know this, everyone knows this. But the thing is — you didn’t do anything to earn your jackpot in the genetic lottery. Those of us — the normal, everyday people — we are very aware of your sheer luck and know how nice it would be if we had it. There’s no need to rub it in everyone’s faces as you find something to complain about. Accept that you got a little leg up, and work on every other quality God didn’t sprinkle over your face at birth. If you can.
via Thought Catalog
I lead a double life, maybe a triple or even quadruple the more I think about it. I’m not a serial killer, hooker, dominatrix, CIA agent or anything remotely that exciting, but I practice separate spheres when it comes to my social life. As I get older, I notice myself paring down my friendships. Why waste time with people I don’t genuinely enjoy being with–life’s too short and I’m no longer in college.
You see, while in college it doesn’t really matter who you hang out with–everyone is ‘cool’, ‘chill’, ‘fun’, ‘funny’, drunk. You scarcely even know your friends outside of a party, and therefore you probably will come to realize you hardly want to see or talk to them in the sober light of day. So now you’re twentysomething in the real world, slightly less intoxicated, and you find yourself with fewer but better friends, you know, that “quality over quantity” philosophy old people swear by. In this ubiquitous process of social streamlining I’ve ended up cozying up with a handful of first-rate friends. The catch is, my close friends hail from disparate social circles and in my social calendar they simply don’t mix.
If I had to break things down I guess there are three distinct groups I orbit between. I have my rather conservative petite bourgeoisies investment bankers and their wives. I love them for their fancy education, discriminating wine palates, generosity, antiques, propensity for the Left Bank and weekend homes in Normandy. However, their idea of a *wild* night includes a glass of cider and semi-sober dancing to the Arcade Fire. Group number two on the other hand consists of a more flamboyant mix of characters all hailing from the art/fashion worlds. For the most part they have minor drug problems, communicate in snide quips and generally linger behind velvet ropes. Then there are my decided intellectual activists. They’re passionate, informed, idealistic academics. Over bottles of cheap wine they spend long evenings engrossed in heated discussions about politics, philosophy and love.
I adore all three, I couldn’t pick a favorite, but I always end up having to make a choice on Friday night because I also know I can never successfully combine them. This isn’t because I’m embarrassed or ashamed of any particular one like you might be thinking. They all know the other groups exist in my life but like any good hostess will tell you, you just can’t please all parties at all times. I know they simply don’t *get* each other because literally the sole thing they have in common is me so that really leaves my birthday and my funeral as the only time for them to ineluctably converge. I happen to know they don’t particularly care for one another, so why impose my varied tastes on them?
If I could have it my way, I would love to be able to call all my friends together to meet at a café for Thursday evening aperitif, but this would be a great disservice to them as everyone would end up decidedly uncomfortable as my investment banker would be horrified by my designer’s story about anal gone wrong in the Silencio bathroom and my intellectual would be mortified by the unabashed decadence at a trendy night club while, across the table, my banker’s 800e cuff links catch the light as he bbms his fiancée. The ultimate result is confusion and uncomfortable silence all around. So I mercifully spare us this unnecessary and selfish social unease, as I must make a choice when sending out that 6pm text. I’ve come to terms this fact, and have even grown to embrace my divergent copaine planes.
However, since I classify my friends, does that mean I have to classify myself? I firmly believe I can have my [friend]cake and eat it too. Maybe this is indicative of an underlying borderline personality disorder, but my different worlds keep me in check. I need my separate spheres to feel fulfilled; I think it keeps me socially limber, plastic, adaptable. Is it so wrong that one could enjoy dancing to Death Cab for Cutie, as much as Kavinsky or Stravinsky? I think all social beings do this to some extent–we all have needs and it’s simply unrealistic to think we can have them properly attended to with one place or person. If we try to stay within the confines of a singular circle we risk conforming and losing those other different and valuable aspects to our persona that make us who we are. Let’s face it, polyphilia just might be the new polygamy. Besides in a life where I know I will never be a Clark Kent or Hannah Baxter, I can at least wear a few different hats when it comes to my mildly schizophrenic social life.
Really well-written. Reflects a lot of my own thoughts.
I’ve learned long ago that if you don’t want to get hurt or let emotions get the best of you, you have to learn to close your mind and heart and be indifferent about many things.
Whether it be grades, relationships, drama, or any other possible bump in the road that’s hell-bent on fucking you over, apathy works like a charm.
Too bad the lesson doesn’t exactly stick well when I need it to the most.