February 27, 2011: Let Go, Let Surveillance

Another incident from yesterday’s rally on Beacon Hill in solidarity with the workers of Wisconsin (I’m getting a lot of mileage out of that, aren’t I):

Coming home from the rally, I took the Red Line, getting on at Park Street. Waiting for the train, I heard a loud, agitated voice further down the platform; a stairwell blocked my view to see who was so upset. But just as the recorded voice announced that an Alewife train was approaching, an angry African American man (and, yes, his ethnicity is important to the story) ambled towards me, cursing, muttering, shouting, kicking trash.

He will come right up to me, I thought. I am a magnet for mentally ill T riders. Bracing myself—and hoping that train would come—I recalled a radio talk show conversation I’d heard a couple of days ago re mentally ill people and why in the world do we send such troubled people to jail? So when, indeed, the guy did come right up to me, shouting “They call me a nigger? They’re a nigger!” I was already in a place of compassion.

I smiled, I looked right into his eyes, I flashed the peace sign to him. He stopped shouting and began to talk. Earnestly. Like he really wanted me to understand him. Trouble is, I couldn’t make out what he was saying: it sounded like gibberish but maybe he was speaking a language I’d never heard.

The train rolled in. I pitched my voice low and as gentle as I could possibly be: “I wish you well. I really do. Take care of yourself. Please.”

The train doors opened. I stepped into a car. He followed me. So I stepped out of the car and began walking quickly towards the next car. The platform was, by now, empty.

Hey, if they shut the doors before I get to the next car I’ll just wait for the next train, I decided.

The doors remained open. Whoa! I realized. I’m being watched. The conductors or maybe surveillance cameras saw this whole exchange. This train’s gonna wait for me! So I slowed down, got to the next car, entered, the door shut behind me, and the train took off.

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