We all know this kind of thing is inevitable; we are every day alerted to whatever child has been kidnapped or abused somewhere in our violent nation. We hear it every day, over and over, on every channel, the warnings. We hold our babies near us and cringe with every report and re-report and re-re-broadcast of the most recent child incident, dreading it might happen to us, to ours. Even if the report came from thousands of miles away, or from some other country, or even if it is only a rehashed report from months ago that we already heard sixty-three times, it’s terrifying!
And yet, somewhere inside of us, there is this inner voice, this naysayer that is denying the danger. A part of us is, occasionally, doing the math, or at least hearing what others who do the math are saying, people trying to point out that, just because there is a hundred-bazillion-to-one chance something will happen to our kids, doesn’t mean it will. We don’t want to hear that. Odds mean nothing. It’s still at least plausible that something terrible will happen.
Read the newspaper, watch CNN: that lady from 2700 miles away whose kid was victimized eleven months ago, or eleven years ago, is no less miserable for that distance in time or geography just because statistically speaking, her tragedy doesn’t register in terms of noteworthy or significant percentages of actual risk or danger. The cultural lesson must be learned: because something can happen, because something has happened to someone, somewhere, we must all never forget that we are all in constant danger. Probability is not the point. Fear doesn’t do math.
Don’t talk to strangers; check the neighborhood pedophile website to see how many sexual offenders live near us; Oh no! That kid who got added to the sexual-offenders list for flashing his junk at a frat party 17 years ago has moved into your neighborhood … Thank God he shows up as a red dot on the website! We are safe now that we know!
Obviously that offense is different than being a pedophile, but nobody even cares. Who even questions what it takes to constitute a red dot on the fear map. Who cares … at least now we have a red dot to fill us with fear, hate and stress! Stay tuned for a candidate on TV promising to keep you safe!!!
And as the last bit of aside, before I get to the actual event I witnessed and was part of, as mentioned in the title, I’ll add this last bit on that point: any candidate who is talking about your safety, in any way, is a piece of crap. There are lots of kinds of safety. So, just for what it’s worth, if your candidate is filling you with fear and then telling you how he will save you from our ruined society, you should know that candidate is what is wrong with our society. Our society is not dangerous. In fact my experience today proves it.
That’s right, people are nice. I watched it unfold all around me.
Or wait, no, nobody wants to hear that. So, um, … let me tell you about the terrible danger that happened yesterday in a neighborhood that surely has lots of red dots on its danger map as a kid was loose, unattended amongst a whole landscape of dreaded strangers!
A poor young boy escaped from his home, delusional and distressed, wearing only his underwear … a sure and ready victim for any of the many, many pedophiles that infest society.
So my wife is driving; I’m shotgun, and my 23-year-old son is in the middle back seat. We’re heading to a fantasy football draft. We’re cruising along down this semi-rural street, two lanes in each direction, no sidewalks, and large stretches of undeveloped lots on either side that are overgrown with dry grass and star thistle. Beyond them are apartments.
So we don’t know there’s a kid loose at this point. What we see is that there’s this person walking ahead of us.. He’s walking along the side of the road, sort of. He’s kind of shambling, and he’s not on the shoulder, but actually in the road. Not super far into it, but definitely on the traffic side of the white line painted along the edge of the asphalt.
At first I thought he was a small-stature adult, because he was probably five feet or so, and he was wearing gray ‘shorts’ (underwear it turns out) and a white ‘wife beater’ style t-shirt, which you don’t usually see on kids. (If you are offended by my using “wife beater” to define that specifc look, please stop reading now and go fuck yourself. You are a terrible person and are responsible for why everyone hates one another right now). So anyway, this pedestrian staggered as we approached and lurched even farther into the lane, the one we were in and heading toward him.
My wife edges the truck away, into the inner lane, to give him ample space.
“What a dumbass,” I said. I, still assuming an adult, and likely a drunk or a druggie, since we aren’t in the best part of town. “Have another crack hit,” I’m about to say to amuse myself as we pass, but then, quick as a switch, I was like, “Oh shit, that’s a kid!”
I didn’t have to say “stop” because my wife was already pulling off. I have my phone out and am on 911. I jump out of the truck once she gets it stopped. We were probably 40 yards passed this kid. I’m trotting towards him as I discover that 911 isn’t answering. I’m getting these “Please hold … system is busy …” messages.
“Hey,” I say to the kid, slowing my pace, maybe ten yards away. I’m a big guy—6’ 4” and 330 lbs, not to mention old and bald with a beard and stuff—so kids (and dogs) never really take to me right away. I’m intimidating or scary looking, and apparently I have a very “intense” initial impression (yay me!). My dad is like that too. I remember a lot of my friends telling me he was “so intimidating.” I always thought I was different, but maybe not.
The light that had turned red right after we through it a minute or so earlier has turned green again, so now there are cars about 300 yards away, two lanes full, coming fast. Worse, this kid is drifting further into the middle of the two lanes on this side of the median.
“Hey! Get out of the road!” I say. I’m trying not to sound like my dad. I do my best to portray a puppy-hugger type person rather than someone who thinks my wife’s cats are gross and is tired of shredded couches and hairball vomit stains on my carpet.
So that didn’t work. This kid is not even making eye-contact with me as I talk. Like, he’s actually veering more toward the median now. As in, my approach is herding him into danger.
Oncoming traffic was still at full speed. It was like they didn’t see him. Or me, for that matter. Or didn’t care.
I back off my charge a little. I can’t get to him faster than the cars will, and if I rush at him, he’s just going to bolt into the other two lanes and get smoked.
“Get out of the road!” I say. This time I try to do the commanding parent, ex-T-ball coach voice. No effect.
He’s sort of wobbly, his legs are not working smoothly, kind of jolty the way his steps go. There’s definitely something wrong with him right now.
Meanwhile, nobody is even slowing down. It’s like, WTF people?
So I run into the road waving my hands, and my phone, which is still filled with 911 excuses as to why nobody is answering.
The kid is oblivious to all of this, and he’s just stumbling on down the road, a few feet this side of the narrow median.
So I’m about ten feet from him, closest I’ve been. Looking at him, his eyes are totally vacant. He is NOT seeing me, not in any way that registers meaningfully anyway. Like a zombie, seeing but not transforming the visual data into thought.
“Hey,” I say, reaching out toward him, beckoning in my least threatening way. “Come on now, let’s get out of traffic, okay?” Yes, that was useless too. Call me slow for even considering another attempt at reason. I move a little closer and he lurches up onto the median, but then comes back down into the inside lane. He’s lumbering toward my wife and son now.
The oncoming traffic is thinning out. Someone is in the turn lane on the other side, about to go into the strip mall on my side of the road.
“Someone will be with you soon,” says a 911 operator and puts me back in the robo-tree before I can say anything.
A car slices between me and the kid, window rolling down. “I’m a medic,” he says. “What’s going on, need help?”
“Yes. That kid is not responding right. Something is wrong.”
He zips toward the side of the road.
I move between traffic and the kid, behind him now. They stop. I turn back to him, but I don’t want to push him over the median. My son is now moving toward him from where my wife pulled over.
“Don’t push him across the median!” I warn. “Don’t rush him.” He backs off.
A car coming the other way sees what’s going on, and is in the turn lane, stopped. A guy jumps out—black guy, and I mention that detail because I have a bigger point to make down the road, so to speak. So this dude has obviously figured out that me, my wife and son are probably not running into the street after this 10-year-old because we are pedophiles.
“You want me to grab him?” this guy says as the kid steps over the median and bolts from my wife and son, into the two lanes of opposite traffic. The light is still red at the intersection, thankfully, but we’re only about 30 yards from it. It’s going to change soon.
The kid is running right toward the traffic too. He’s not crossing the road. Just lumbering toward what will happen when the light changes, oblivious. I swear he’s laughing, but not in a way that is like he’s laughing because we are chasing him or even that he wants to cause chaos. It’s like I-have-no-idea kind of laughing. Something-is-wrong laughing.
The medic who pulled over says at the same time my wife does, “Yes, grab him.”
The light turned green.
I swear people are oblivious. The cars are charging toward him. He’s obviously not right, by the way he lumbers and the fact he’s in the middle of the damn road. And yet people are charging across the intersection now that they have their stupid green permission.
A horn blasts like three feet behind me, so close it startles me, like as in so close that, in my interest in following the kid now in the other lanes, I neglected to watch my own ass, assuming traffic was still stopped and cooperative. So I spin around.
A car has pulled off into the dirt and grass of the shoulder and crept around in the forty seconds since this all started. He’s nearly got free of the jam only to encounter my fat ass still in the road. Obviously I am impeding his journey to, like, a beer drinking party or something—kind of like the NFL fantasy draft party that I was on my way too—so he was annoyed and he honked at me to get out of the way.
Like I’m out here just dicking around for my health, me and all these other people, running around in the damn road chasing after this kid who is large enough and random enough to be visible and obviously distressed to anyone paying attention?
And even if that is all too obscure and subtle, why in the hell are all these other drivers you just drove around in the dirt stopped anyway? Did you just think they were all suddenly stricken with some, like, mental vacancy that made them forget which pedal propelled their vehicles?
So anyway, the one moron aside, the aforementioned black dude basically threw himself into oncoming traffic and snatched this kid (who is pretty big, btw) up. He carried him back to the median, kicking and thrashing, and then across our lanes to the medic and my wife who helped get the kid to the shoulder. Another medic showed up too, pulled off and ran in to help. It was pretty cool how much quality help showed up in the pulse-pounding course of a minute or three.
911 still hasn’t started talking to me. This whole thing took place so fast, I can’t even explain how quick all this went down.
I get an operator by the time I am approaching the boy now on the shoulder of the road. The medic and my wife have him wrestled down and are keeping him from thrashing around. He’s clearly delusional. Little cottage-cheese chunks of what looks like vomit speckle his chin on the left side of his mouth. My immediate impression is that he’s thrown up, and has either gotten into some medicine or drugs he shouldn’t have or has had a seizure and is in that weird state after it, either of which situation he then wandered away from.
My wife is pillowing his head on her thigh as the medic grapples the kid’s legs. She’s stroking his hair gently telling him it’s going to be okay. The medic is trying to get him to say his name. He doesn’t tell his name, at least, not convincingly, and the 911 operator is asking me if he’s coherent. “Not really,” I say. The medic is very methodical, but not really getting anywhere. My wife is still stroking his hair and holding his hand. He’s kind of gross with vomit and stuff. Selfish me, writer me, can’t help realizing how gentle and amazing my wife is. I don’t deserve her.
Anyway, they got the kid mellowed out. He couldn’t respond to direct questions. 911 finally did respond to the call, and we got a cop to show up. Someone had seen the boy leaving the neighborhood a few minutes earlier and called, so there was a cop already on the way. Which was good.
The mom had called in a missing-persons not a whole lot earlier, apparently. 911 patched me through to the dispatcher that was working on that and we were able to put it together. Cops and mom were on the way right after.
A lady pulled into the parking lot near where the medic and my wife had the kid held down. I was still talking to dispatch. “I’m the one who called it in,” she said. Her accent was kind of thick, like maybe Mexican or somewhere farther south. She looked really distraught, like, as in really afraid and worked up. Turns out she’d actually been the first to dial 911. She lived in the neighborhood saw him wandering down the street (prior to the main thorough fair), so she called. They dismissed her off the 911 call, and she’d decided to keep going and come after him. Again, keep in mind, this was probably only 5 or 7 minutes from when she saw him. Which gets me to my point.
We were all there. Well, except the black guy. He left. And the people who bothered to stop at first when I asked them to with my wave. But, yeah, lots of people.
There was this kid, a helpless ten-year-old boy, on some kind of drug or having some kind of episode, and so he wandered away from the “safety” of his mother, out into the world of pedophiles and rapists and gun-wielding lunatics and fags and atheists and pro-abortionists and liberals and black guys and fat, heterosexual, white males descended from vile colonizers … and yet EVERYONE ONE STOPPED WHAT THEY WERE DOING AND HELPED HIM.
He didn’t even “talk to strangers,” which we all know is an awful idea, rife with danger. But strangers talked to him. And when he wouldn’t talk to those strangers, they intervened anyway. They called, they stopped traffic, they dared to touch someone else’s kid … they responded. They were civil. They gave a fucking shit, and they took action.
People are good. All of them. Old and young. Chick and dude. White. Black. Mexican. Asian. Like literally everyone of whatever just stopped their lives and helped this kid.
America is fine. Society is fine. Stop fixating on the negative, on the low probabilities. The fact that the title of this piece was interesting enough for you to read it proves that the problem is real. The problem is not that we have too many pedophiles and rapists. Any pedophile or rapist is too many. The problem is not racism or classism or socialism or capitalism. The problem is that we are focused on the wrong things, and by fixating on the terrible, despite it being statistically anomalous, we are ignoring the fact that WE ARE AWESOME. WE ARE AN AWESOME PEOPLE WHO WILL COME HELP YOUR DAMN KID WHEN THEY NEED IT … SO DON’T TEACH YOUR KID TO THINK WE (“STRANGERS”) ARE THE DANGER. WE AREN’T. WE ARE THE ONES THAT KEEP YOU SAFE. SOCIETY IS ABOUT KEEPING EACH OTHER SAFE.
How is THAT not what we see in ourselves?
And yes, my headline is a gross example of link-bait. That is what has happened to “reporting” in our culture. When I was young, everyone knew that National Enquirer headlines were a sign of garbage reporting. But somehow, how, people just believe anything in bold print. Reading is hard anyway. Etc.