Known Johnson

September 15, 2006

Everybody stares

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:42 pm

I stopped to grab a quick lunch today and had to walk past a man who appeared to be a bum being arrested near the entrance. I sat down with my food, facing away from the scene and instead watched the others in the restaurant as they gawked, seemingly incontrollably, at the action going on outside. One woman was fascinated, barely able to eat her meal, turning completely around in her seat to face backwards so she could see out the window behind her, leaning a bit to see around a part of the building blocking her view. Another trio of eaters kept a loud running commentary on the events and, when the man was finaly loaded into the police car, the more obnoxious of the three proclaimed, after shoving a bit of food off to the side of her mouth, how he’s off free room and board and three free meals a day, then laughed a few times.

All I could think was that maybe we should give the guy a little privacy. Bum or no bum, and I don’t know what he did to deserve being arrested, maybe he deserves at least a few last minutes without being under scrutiny before being whisked away where that’s all he’ll be.

And then it occured to me that, in my effort to avoid staring at the scene of a man in an unfortunate low moment in his life, I had inadvertently done the same thing anyway. I had focused all my attention on a bunch of people relishing their own low moments, and had judged them on it, and hated them for what I saw in them.



  1. Yep, I “feel” ya. Living in the city, I see all sorts of people having low moments, and I am still a bit disturbed at how I react at times. When I avert my eyes and hurry away, am I “giving them privacy” or am I trying to pretend that they aren’t there? It’s heading into fall/winter once again, which means I’ll be seeing security guys pulling dudes out of the back dumpsters again, where they’ve crawled inside to get some shelter.

    I don’t know how to feel about stuff like that, honestly.

    Comment by Yogi — September 18, 2006 @ 10:50 am | Reply

  2. It probably had nothing at all to do with the fact that this guy was a bum. Or was bumish. If anyone was getting arrested, people will stare. We are a nosey group and want to know what is going on – why do you think people slow down when they see flashing lights on the side of the road?

    Comment by Bekah — September 18, 2006 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

  3. Sometimes I feel amazingly positive about humanity and think that we stare at wrecks not because we look for bloody carnage but because we instinctively care about our fellow humans. Other times . . . But I don’t know. In this case, these people were particularly gross about it. There’s natural curiosity and then there’s circus freak-show curiosity, where the point is to make fun of someone’s misfortune. JoJo the dog-faced boy may be fun for us for a few minutes, but I have a hard time not putting myself in JoJo’s fur and imagining what kind of life he’s living while people grimace and laugh and point.

    Comment by Tom — September 18, 2006 @ 7:22 pm | Reply

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