Tuesday, January 30, 2007

If You See Something...

You know those signs in the subway that say, "If you see something, say something?" Well, yesterday, I saw something. I was on the PATH coming home during rush hour and this guy wearing a ski mask — he looked like he was two steps away from robbing a bank — gets on the train, standing right in front of me. I'm trying to be cool about it, but he's fidgeting the whole time, covering up as much of his face as possible. Then he takes his cell phone out of his pocket — middle of a tunnel, right: no signal — and he's playing with it, with this ski mask over his head. Once the train's out in the daylight, he calls someone and he's talking on the phone in... well, I don't want to guess what language it is, but it's not one that I understand. Oh, and did I mention this guy was Middle Eastern? No? Well, it's probably not that important anyway.

So I guess I've got to turn in my Democratic National Committee membership card now. Is Glenn Beck looking for an intern?

I'm really conflicted, which is a problem, since I've been told we're at war. I'd like to think that the fact the guy was Middle Eastern didn't have anything to do with it — about two years ago, there was a white guy in his sixties on the subway wearing a bulletproof vest, and I was thinking about saying "something" to "someone" about it, but then I got to my stop and went on with my life — but no matter how you rationalize it, there's no way to push this guy's ethnicity out of your mind. Here's what the MTA's website wants the public to be on the lookout for: "Be wary of suspicious behavior. Take notice of people in bulky or inappropriate clothing." All I know of suspicious behavior is what Jack Bauer beats people up for in his black-and-white world, and it's winter, so everybody's gonna be wearing bulky clothing. But I couldn't think of a good, innocuous reason for this guy to be wearing a ski mask on a heated underground train. I came up with (a) he's a ninja, (b) he's incredibly culturally tone-deaf, or (c) he's up to something nefarious. The middle one sounded best in my mind, but it's not like the third option was too far behind.

And of course, there's the liberal part of me thinking, "You do realize that you're just stereotyping this guy because he's dressing and acting differently from everybody else. Stereotyping is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong!" You'd feel like such an ass if you called the cops on him just because he didn't conform... although, I kind of feel like, given how he's dressed, I wouldn't feel like a huge injustice happened if a police officer searched him for depleted uranium.

In the end, bystander apathy won over, and I didn't hear anything on the news about a PATH train blowing up over Newark Bay, so I guess I did the right thing.