Friday on the Metro a funny thing happened: An intense drama unfolded on a Metro car as everyone around ignored it. The collective discomfort at having to bear witness to the scene was palpable, nonetheless, none of us said anything, did anything, or looked as it happened.
A young woman failed to produce valid proof of paying her way onto the Metro and a deputy began to give her a ticket. The woman's pleas went from fragile to excited to desperate to hysterical pretty quickly. "But I don't have money to pay this ticket," she said "You are going to put me out ion the street because I can't pay my rent!"
The rest of us on the car -- those who had managed to produce valid proof of fare -- just looked ahead, deaf and blind to this woman's frantic pleas.
There's a lot of apathy that goes on in the Metro. Old people are run over, people fall down, children are viewed as obstacles. And then, sometimes, when people decide to have emotional breakdowns in these public spaces, apathy is almost always the response.
I've seen others receive tickets on the Metro with indifference, then lovers' quarrels, people with illnesses, all of them become invisible because Metro riders are more concerned about their own business, rather than everyone else's. Of course, there's also the fact that you never know who is going to freak out and take you to crazytown.
I didn't give the apathy or the drama too much thought until after I disembarked the train. The woman kept sobbing softly to herself long after the deputies got off our car and onto the next one. She shared a great deal about herself during her interrogation by the deputy: That her purse had been stolen, that she was 19, she lived in a "roach-infested studio," that she had no money.
I can't speak for anyone else on the train, but I didn't really feel bad for her until a bit after I got off of the car. "But I feel like this is such an injustice!" she screamed, it sounded so whiny to me, something people with privilege say because they are not used to being affected by "the system."
Then again, once I realized how cold and unfeeling we all acted while this woman felt like her world was being torn apart, I realized that "the system" affects us all in different ways.