by the Night Writer
It was 6:30ish last Tuesday night, and a group of us seasoned LRT riders were waiting at a downtown stop, poised at the place on the platform where we knew the doors would open when a train came. When the train arrived a couple of hoodied kids who looked to be about 15 years old barged the queue for the door, even blocking a couple of people who were trying to disembark. As it so happens, these gentlemen were black, though I’ve seen this behavior from many of the youthful riders regardless of color.
The two guys sat across the aisle from each other in some forward-facing seats and the other riders seemed content to give them space, choosing other seats. They didn’t concern me too much, though, and they were sitting in my favorite section, away from the cold drafts that come in when the train doors open, so I took a seat kitty-corner facing one of them, against the window. I pulled out my iPad to do some reading and the kid starts asking me about it – what model, what can it do, etc. He asked how much it cost. I told it him, “a lot”. He pressed, I responded with the same. He asked again and I gave him a ballpark. Then he said, “I bet you’d be upset if someone took it from you.”
I didn’t take it as a threat. The two kids together might have weighed as much as I do and the train had too many people on it, and we were too deep into the car, for a good snatch and run (which apparently have been a recurring problem on the LRT); I’d have had him by the hoodie within two steps. My sense was he was trying to have some fun playing with the mind of what he took to be an uptight white guy, so looking him in the eye – as I had been doing in the rest of our conversation – and in my same tone of voice I told the kid that I wouldn’t get too excited, I’d simply activate the tracking app on the Pad and call the police and have them go get it for me.
The kid said, “What if the guy sold it?” I said he’d have to move fast because the last story I read in the paper about someone using the tracker to recover an iPad the police had arrived at the address with the Pad in about an hour. He then wanted to know if the police would give it back to me. “They would,” I said, “but maybe not until after the trial.”
That seemed to put an end to the conversation so I went back to reading. Shortly after that the kid put his feet, wet and dripping from the snow, on the seat next to me. Now this selfish behavior (also observed in young people of all colors) is a pet peeve of mine though I usually keep quiet about it. Since the kid had already engaged me in conversation, though, and I wasn’t going to be intimidated, I said in a friendly tone, “Hey, what about the next person that wants to sit in that seat?” He gave me the blank face, tilted his head to one side and shrugged his shoulders. “What if the next person to sit in the seat turned out to be you?” Same shrug.
At the very next stop a couple of black women in their 30s boarded with children and made for where we were seated. One saw the slop on the seat and made a disgusted noise and moved on. I looked at the kid, and he had his head down, staring at his feet. At Lake St. they got off. I kept a grip on my Pad and then watched their reflections in the window out of the corner of my eye as they reached the platform. I figured there’d be some parting shot so I wasn’t surprised when I saw the kid draw back his fist to hit my window as he went by. If he thought he’d get me to jump he was, again, disappointed.