SEAN CHERCOVER won the Lovey award for Best First Novel at the Love Is Murder on Dark and Stormy Nights conference this past weekend for his magnificent book BIG CITY BAD BLOOD. A Harper hardcover, pb due out on February 26, 2008. Buy it. It’s good.
Now back to our regularly scheduled piece of my mind----
A couple of weeks ago I was walking northbound on Michigan Avenue near the Water Tower. I stopped at a “don’t walk” sign. Standing ahead of me, nearer the curb, were two women and a man with a stroller in which a baby was sleeping. The two women were just chatting with the man, and from the body language and the fact that they didn’t look at the baby, I thought neither of them was his or her mother, but the man was the father. The man had his feet on the edge of the curb, but that meant the stroller was entirely in the street. The man clearly believed he was on the curb, which he was. Think about a stroller. It may be as much as three feet from the push handle in back to the front. Therefore the baby was way out into the traffic lane. All it needed was some taxi or car to take a tight right turn and the baby would have been squashed. And this is one of the busiest streets in Chicago.
Should I have mentioned the danger of this to the father? I didn’t, and I still feel wrong about it.
The light changed, and we all crossed the street safely, but the father might well make the same mistake at another corner and something bad could happen to the child.
A couple of years earlier, I had been walking eastbound on Chestnut, just east of Michigan. A little boy was following his father along the sidewalk, the child bouncing a ball as he went, the father several steps ahead of him. The ball rolled into the street. Cars were coming. The child ran after the ball. I yelled “Wait!’ and put a hand in front of the boy. The father turned around and saw the ball in the street, but scowled at me, went to snag the ball and came back, took the child’s hand and walked away with another backward scowl.
I bring the stroller thing up because it’s a little more borderline than the ball in the street. The child with the ball was in clear danger and I don’t really care that the father made a scowly face. But generally, what should a person do? I believe so strongly that people should be allowed to live their own lives that sometimes I may not intervene when I ought to. I’m also quite shy [read chicken] about approaching strangers to poke my nose in.
This is not like seeing some hulking thug beating some little old lady where intervention is really necessary.
Last summer my husband had back surgery. A month or so after it, we were walking back from his doctor’s office. Because he couldn’t walk far at that point, he stopped to sit on the edge of a concrete flower planter, not a place where a person who was okay would choose to relax. A woman coming by saw him and asked him whether he was all right. I explained the surgery thing and thanked her. We were in the middle of the Northwestern University medical complex of buildings, and I suspect she was a doctor or a nurse. She had that air of authority about her.
She did the right thing. In her position, I probably would not have inquired. And I think I would have been wrong.
When do you speak up? When is speaking up being intrusive? Should I have said something to the father with the baby in the stroller? Should we all?