“She faced the man squarely, looking directly into his eyes and telling him firmly, ‘You have no reason to threaten this woman.'”
Rider Ramona watched a brave woman defend another rider from a verbal attack; here’s her eyewitness account:
Down in the spookiness of the Forest Hill station, a man in a trench coat suddenly loomed up and started shouting at an older woman waiting for an inbound train. As he lunged toward her, hurling threats, Heidy suddenly appeared.
Heidy quickly stepped in between them, turning first to the woman, looking her in the eye and asking, “Are you OK?” The woman nodded and stepped back.
Keeping her body between the woman and the agitated man, Heidy now turned her attention to him. She faced the man squarely, looking directly into his eyes and telling him firmly, “You have no reason to threaten this woman.”
The man’s anger was now focused on Heidy. She held her ground, not moving. Whenever he shouted something, she spoke back to him firmly but respectfully.
Eventually he backed off and sat down on a bench. He was still shouting, but as he lay down, his anger got more specific: “I have no money! And I’m hungry!”
“I’m sorry to hear that, sir,” said Heidy. “I don’t have any food. But would you like the last of my coffee? It’s just cold coffee, but you can have it.”
“I don’t want coffee. I need food!”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“I hope you get it.”
The train rolled into the station, and the man was now calm enough to board without threatening others.
There is food to be had, and he was headed down to get some. But, as I saw it, Heidy had given him something much greater: she SAW him. She showed him respect despite his outrageous behavior, but she wouldn’t let him get away with victimizing an innocent person. She held him to a higher standard, and this eventually caused him (despite his fragile mental state) to focus back on his real needs.
I approached her on the train and told her, “Thank you for what you did. That was a textbook example of how to handle that situation.”
“Oh, thank you,” she said. “I try. I figure if you live in the city, you can’t leave your house and be afraid. These are valuable skills to have.”
And…I want to be her when I grow up.
On the Muni Diaries Twitter feed and inbox, we’ve seen many stories of riders standing up for one another, including when an entire group of women formed a line of defense, and when fellow riders refused to tolerate body shaming. But it takes something special to truly see people, even at their worst. Kind of gives you hope for humanity, doesn’t it?