Thursday, October 4

Colorful Opportunist

The familiar was briefly interrupted yesterday. Driving home with Rachel after picking her up from Melanie's house just before dusk, my brain couldn't register for a split-second what I was seeing in front of me in the road. Toddling towards the middle of 10th Street was a tiny little boy.

Instantly I could see there were no cars in front of us, but the intersection at Maryland could offer an on-coming vehicle any moment. I didn't know if anyone was behind me - I was honking my horn repeatedly hoping to alert his mother. I was pulling over and keeping my eye on the tiny little figure who was out in the street all alone. We didn't see anyone else. I had Rachel jump out while the car was still in motion to run and grab the boy by the hand.

He was so little he couldn't talk yet. I parked abruptly at an odd angle to the corner and hopped out to knock loudly on the first available door. No one answered. Two houses away I saw two young men come out to do something with the car in the driveway. Following behind them was a young woman chatting on the phone. She stepped out onto her front porch unaware of our approach. As we walked toward her with the child in tow, I glanced back at my unlocked car; a young black man in a uniform style work shirt had suddenly appeared and was walking toward my car.

I turned back to the young woman who had finished her phone call and was looking at us. I said, "Hello," she responded, "Hi!" - still seeming not to notice the little boy at Rachel's side - "Is this your little boy?" I asked. Her face was awash in shock. As she answered "No," she was reaching for him. "Do you know where he belongs? He was just out in the middle of the street." She scooped him up, the tears beginning and her answer muffled by the boy's curly black hair close to her face, "He belongs here. Thank you! Oh, thank you so much!"

When I turned away, there was the young black man standing exactly next to our passenger door, his eyes in an expressionless face locking onto mine. I noticed both his hands were in front of him, possibly on the door handle. With only the width of the street between us, I stared right back at him. My purse was on the floor of the passenger side. I had jumped out less than 60 seconds earlier leaving the car unlocked. Now this guy was brazenly staring me down. I was angry. There was no way he couldn't have noticed what we were doing, saving a little boy, yet here he was, being incredibly obvious about what his intentions were and foiled by our quick return.

I quickened my pace. He (much too slowly) finally began to walk away from our car, keeping his eyes on mine the whole time. He slowly put his hands into his pockets as he made sort of a semi-circle around to the back of our car, and then, meandered past our car towards the street. He glanced back at me while I opened my door. I stared right back at him. What a jerk.

I'm not talking racial profiling or bigotry or negative urban stereotypes. This is no noose-referenced Jena conflict or O.J. guilt poll split down racial lines. This is my neighborhood. That was my car. That was not my little boy I was ready to block traffic with my car to save. Of course I recognized race, but I think every woman is very aware of any man in her vicinity. He could have been whatever color staring me down.

There are only two things really bugging me right now; why didn't I just raise my key and click it locked right in his face? - and it was precisely his color that prevented me from doing anything. My very first flash-thought was, "I don't want him to think I'm biased".

I'm such a jerk.


rachel tanner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rachel tanner said...

As this story gets told forever and ever I have something to say-just for the record here. This was the first time that this has ever happened to me.

I could see the boy in the road and I thought my mom could too, so I didn't say anything. All of the sudden the car swerved and she started to honk and she told me to get out so that I could try to help the boy find his mom or someone.

I ran up to the boy and leaned down to his level and said, "Where's mommy?" and he said, "Car. Mom. House." and shrugged.

At that moment I just stood there thinking to myself,(as I knocked on the door to this one house)who would let there-probably only like one year old child- wonder around in the streets? what kind of person would let their kid get that far out into the street?

To tell you the reality, if I wasn't at Mel's house at that time, we wouldn't have seen that little boy and I doubt anyone else would because it was getting darker by the second. I am glad that we could help him just this once but I want to help him again.