Wheels on the Metro bus go round and round


What do you do when you witness child abuse in public?
A couple of weeks ago, I was riding a Metro bus in the Downtown Transit Tunnel when I was confronted with this question. We had reached a stop, and when the rear door opened, a little boy, maybe 3 or 4 years old, stepped onto the bus, stopped and pulled his baseball cap down over his face.
Suddenly, the woman behind him (presumably his mother) slapped him loudly in the back of the head. "I told you not to do that with your cap," she said, and dragged him by his arm past me to an empty seat in the back.
The boy started sobbing. "Shut up," the woman told him repeatedly. He cried louder.
"If you don't stop I'll hurt you worse," she warned.
The handful of people around me who witnessed the slap and heard the threat went back to their books or their iPods, while I went back to looking out the window. Like them, I chose to do nothing.

Metro troubles
What are you supposed to do in that situation? Tell the bus driver? Call 911 on your cell phone? Confront the woman?
I had taken action against threatening riders on previous Metro bus rides. Just a month ago, I was riding the bus downtown when a man started shouting obscenities and epithets at random people out on the sidewalk.
I walked up to the driver and told him the man needed to be removed because he was using offensive and threatening language. The driver asked me where he was sitting. The man saw me pointing at him and began hurling his vitriol at me as I walked past him and returned to my seat.
When we reached the next stop the man stood and took two steps toward me with a raised fist before turning and heading toward the front door. The driver said something to him, and he cursed at the driver and took two steps toward him before finally exiting. He then moved to the street side of the bus, shouted something at me though a window and then punched it. The bus continued on its route.
I think this experience was still on my mind when I chose not to tell the bus driver after witnessing the child abuse. I then decided that if I saw a police or security officer at the next tunnel stop I would ask the driver to hold the bus and then approach one of the officers. But there were no police or security officers in sight.
For a couple of weeks last February, it seemed like there were security guards or Seattle police or King County Sheriff's deputies every 30 feet down in the transit tunnel. That was after the videotape was released of the Jan. 28 bus-tunnel beating of a 15-year-old girl who was viciously assaulted by another 15-year old girl while three private security guards stood 10 feet away without stopping the attack. (The guards did radio the police, and at the time, they were not contractually allowed to intervene in physical altercations.) But five months later, all the authorities are gone - at least at the times when I usually ride through the tunnel. So I continued to do nothing.

No hugs
Finally, I considered confronting the woman. But what could I have said that would have made a difference?
What if I said something and that made her even angrier, and she took it out on the boy? Was it possible that her slap and threats were an anomaly? Could she have just been having a bad day? My gut told me no.
But like I said, I didn't say or do anything, and soon I got off at my stop.
There was another well-publicized assault on a Metro bus last January. A 14-year-old boy slapped a 56-year-old Metro driver and knocked her unconscious when she wouldn't let him out the rear door. According to the driver's son, when his mother found out how young her assailant was, she burst into tears and said she wished she could give him a hug because he needed love. I wonder how many times that 14-year-old boy, or the 15-year-old girl caught on camera, were slapped in their younger days.
Two weeks later, I still remember the sound of the little boy crying on the bus. Does he ever get any hugs?
I also recall that the baseball cap the he was wearing that caused the woman to slap him had a picture of a superhero on it, a superhero I wanted to be like when I was his age. It's too bad there weren't any heroes on the bus that day. That little boy - and the woman who slapped him - could have used their help.[[In-content Ad]]