Ride with respect, everybody
By Tom Sabulis
Maybe you’ve seen the viral video making the rounds: A robust young man forcibly ejects an elderly grayhaired man from a MARTA train, allegedly for making inappropriate comments to females.
It’s easy to believe the latter. You can find knuckleheads of all ages, races and gender riding public transportation – as you can driving on the highway or riding on bike paths.
The removal of the old man is what takes you by surprise. He does not look like a physical threat; he had one of those wheeled-walkers with him. And maybe, just maybe, he’s mentally ill. There are a lot of those folks on our streets. And if they’re on our streets they can find their way onto MARTA.
Whatever the case, there were better ways to go about addressing the situation instead of confronting him. If he’s really bugging you and you don’t want to change seats or walk away, press the emergency call button and have the train driver summon police to wait at the next station.
Of course, part of me – the tired, harried commuter — wants to say “way to go” to the younger man, for eliminating a nuisance. Hopefully, he didn’t hurt the old guy, who reportedly fell to the station floor upon his abrupt exit.
But that’s not the right response. There are no good guys and bad guys here, just the confusing, unfortunate clash of individuals in close quarters. It’s not a “MARTA thing,” either (thanks for chiming in, haters); I’ve ridden the system for 23 years and find that incidents like this are few and far between. People routinely deal with far worse in many major cities we regard as our competitors.
It’s more of a big-city thing. Stuff like this happens all the time — except that when they happen now, they are more likely being captured on Smartphones, perhaps by observers too plugged-in social media-wise to get involved human being-wise. On the video you can hear a chorus of protests when the man is shoved out the door. Maybe he didn’t deserve it. Maybe he did.
Since last fall, MARTA has been advertising its “ride with respect” campaign, warning customers to refrain from boorish behavior, loud music, begging, etc. At the same time, police presence was bumped up at stations and on the trains. It will never be enough to prevent scenes like this. As chief MARTA spokesman Lyle V. Harris told me, they cannot put an officer on every car.
So, is it a bad thing if the fallout from the video is this: That those who would abuse fellow passengers suddenly get the idea that other law-abiding adult passengers may not put up with it? Will they then think twice about engaging their inner jackass?
Still, no one should endorse vigilantism. Riding with respect can also be interpreted as, don’t throw grandpa from the train.
As it turns out, MARTA Police tracked down and arrested Loren Hooks, 43, on Thursday for battery in connection with removing the 68-year-old passenger. If the old man turns out to be a serial nuisance, maybe MARTA can deal with him, too. Or get him some help.