I was watching Breakfast Television this morning (because I feel that since I’m an adult and work 9-5 it should be part of my life…but also because I don’t have a kitchen table and have to eat in the living room. Paradox!) and there was a story of a 79 year old man who was mugged on the subway this past weekend. While he got his wallet back (less $40) what most upset him was that no one helped him when it was happening. While this is sad and a bit disgusting, it is definitely not unexpected. Scenarios like this are becoming the norm.
When was the last time you entered a subway or streetcar and didn’t hear phat beats blaring out of someone’s headphones? For that matter, when was the last time you were on a subway and didn’t have your own phat beats blasting into your ears? We have become so engrossed in our music and mp3 players that we rarely have a chance to listen to the world around us. Combine this with the whole “I live in Toronto so I won’t look at anyone or respond to anything” cold shoulder that we’ve all grown over the years and it’s really not unexpected that no one helped this guy when he was getting mugged. Chances are they had no idea it was happening!
Just last weekend I got off a streetcar and happened to look up as it was passing me. I saw that my good friend Leigh was sitting in the seat RIGHT in front of me…and I had no idea! I was listening to my iPod (a science podcast, most likely) and looking out the window and didn’t even realize that a friend of six years had gotten on the car and sat directly in front of me.
A more somber example comes from a few years ago; I was on a GoTrain en route to Toronto with a few friends and saw in the next car over (you can see through little windows into the next car) that it looked like a girl was getting beat up by a large man. When the train stopped we went over and saw a tiny blonde woman, covered in blood and crying, who was just beat up by her boyfriend. People on the upper level of the train couldn’t hear her screaming because they had music in their ears. If we didn’t happen to be sitting in the right place at the right time, who knows what could have happened?
More and more we surround ourselves with little bubbles and miss what’s happening in the world around us – both bad AND good. And as someone who has been in Toronto for four years, I can attest that you just learn to ignore the shouting, screaming and talking around you; crazy homeless people yell at you every day on the street, teenage girls scream at nothing on the subway…I’ve had people stop and ask me the time and I simply say “sorry no” before realizing that they’re not asking me for money. You just learn to do your own thing and not pay close attention to what’s going on around you.
So it really wasn’t a surprise to me when the man stated that no one helped him on the subway. In all likelihood no one looked up from their mp3 players, books, Gameboys (do they call them Gameboys still?) or fingernails, and anyone that did hear a bit of shouting just chalked it up to teenagers being loud and annoying on the subway, as they usually are.
What happened to this man is terrible and, while I fully admit to adoring my iPhone and listening to podcasts whenever I use the TTC, maybe we should all try to unplug once in a while and listen to what’s going on around us. Brids signing, buskers busking, teenagers screaming and all.