I watched as the muscular twenty-something man lugged an enormous duffle bag up the steps to the upper level of the train. He tossed the bag on the seat in front of him with a thud, and from across the aisle, I could make out the word “rugby” stitched in orange letters on the maroon background of his bag.
He wore black athletic pants that snapped up the side, and several of the snaps were undone, revealing his hairy calf. Broad streaks of dirt stretched across the back of his white t-shirt. As I looked up at his face and noticed mud in his closely cropped blond hair, I thought, “That must have been some rugby game.”
My new favorite Nine Inch Nails song came on my iPod, so I turned up the volume and focused my attention on the buildings rushing by. A few minutes later, from the corner of my eye, I could see the man digging through his bag, then turn around to ask the woman behind him a question. She shook her head ‘no.’ He got up and asked the woman behind her something, and she shook her head ‘no’ as well.
Cyndi Lauper came on next.
I noticed that the man looked upset – he rifled through his bag several more times, then put his head down and stared at the ground. He pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose and… was he crying? I turned down the volume on my iPod just as he got up to ask a woman in front of him a question.
“Excuse me, ma’am? Do you possibly have a cell phone I could use? I just lost mine and I need to call my mom.”
It was at that moment that I realized this twenty-something rugged man was actually just a teenage boy – maybe seventeen years old. The third woman shrugged him off with a quick shake of the head, and he slumped back into his seat, rubbing the back of his neck.
I reached down into my bag and grabbed my cell phone, then caught his eye from across the aisle.
“Do you need to use a pho-“
Before I could finish my sentence, the woman behind me said loudly, “I wondered if he was looking for a phone! I have a phone. It’s a government phone – I hardly ever use it.”
The boy walked down the stairs and back up to our side of the train. He hung his head low to avoid hitting the ceiling.
“Tell me the number – I’ll dial it for you,” the woman barked. “And be sure to stay right here.”
“Oh, I will,” he said.
As the boy waited for his mother to pick up the phone, the woman said in a booming voice to no one in particular, “This is your tax money at work here, people!”
“It’s busy. But, thank you,” he sighed, as he handed the woman her phone and started to walk back to his seat.
The boy still within earshot, the woman cackled, “Even if he tried to steal it, it wouldn’t do him any good. Thing’s so old.”
Which leads me to my open letter to the 6:00pm Metra train:
First, to the three people who told the boy they didn’t have cell phones, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt, which is probably undeserved since I saw one of you whip a cell phone out of your purse minutes after getting off the train at my stop today. But if any of you did have a cell phone and were just too… what? Scared? Cynical? Lazy? to offer it to this young man who was clearly distressed, I hope that someday you are in a situation where you are in desperate need of a simple favor from strangers and are turned down just as coldly.
Next, to the obnoxiously loud government employee, when you make the recipient of a good deed feel like a criminal, and you try as hard as possible to draw attention to your random act of kindness, it doesn’t make you a Good Samaritan. It just makes you a jackass.

16 Responses to “Rugby”

  1. shari Says:

    Oh, poor kid! Gaaaah! For pity’s sake people it could be YOUR kid in a situation like that, and YOU could be the one waiting for the call to hear he’s alright.
    That just makes me sad. But I love you for being righteously indignant — you are STILL my hero, Jen. (All the children said….)

  2. Tracy Lynn Says:

    Dude, there is a special circle of Hell reserved for people who do nothing in the face of someone’s distress. This is an example of why I frequently hate people. Great huge swaths of people, totally deserving of the heat of my contempt.
    Ok, I’m going to go simmer down now.

  3. jenny Says:

    shari: Well, it’s pretty easy to get on my high horse in the privacy of my own blog. But you’re absolutely the sweetest for saying that! :)
    tracy lynn: See, and usually I like people, but sometimes I just want to become a recluse in the hills somewhere. Except I don’t like to hunt for my own food and I’m very keen on indoor plumbing. Oh, and TV.

  4. Dean Says:

    Sometimes, I guess a jackass Samaritan is better than no Samaritan at all.

  5. Jessica Says:

    As a mother, when I think of that being my kid….well, I won’t make my threats public on your blog, Jen. Some people.

  6. peefer Says:

    So ….?
    Did you ask him out?

  7. jenny Says:

    dean: yes, as always, you bring the voice of reason. a jackass samaritan really is better than no samaritan at all, but barely. (welcome back, by the way!)
    jess: funny – i was thinking of your son when i was writing this, because this kid seemed just as sweet and polite as i imagine your son to be.
    peef: once i realized how young he was, i felt like a dirty old woman for having admired his muscular back. sick. sick. sick. i thought he was 25!

  8. Kevin Says:

    It’s a cell phone! What’s he gonna do, jump from the friggin’ train and try to run away with it.
    People are idiots sometimes. May karma bite them in the ass.

  9. Dave2 Says:

    I have been in the same situation a couple of times, and always hand the phone over. Don’t most people have nation-wide calling plans with obscene amounts of minutes now-a-days? Who cares?
    Never underestimate the ability of strangers to be insensitive and complete idiots.

  10. romy Says:

    i wish he’d used your phone instead. poor kid.
    thanks for the reminder about being generous with people in distress … i have been needing a post like this for a while. :)

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Jenny,
    Go tell it on a mountain.

  12. jenny Says:

    kevin: That was exactly my thought! WTF is wrong with you people? Is he going to leap out the window of a moving train to get your free-with-a-one-year-contract Nokia phone? Was he going to call a phone-sex line in China for an hour? UGH!
    dave2: I won’t underestimate these particular people anymore.
    romy: I suspect you’re the innately generous sort. :)
    viv: Oh, I will. I’ll tell it on the mountain, over the hills, and everywhere!

  13. ms. sizzle Says:

    why wouldn’t anyone let him use their phone?! being a jackass sure is a higher price to pay than a few lousy rollover minutes.
    poor guy.
    right on with this post jenny.
    :) sizz

  14. Sarah Says:

    I think that might’ve been my mom with the government phone, though I don’t know what she was doing working for the government, living in Illinois or being on the Metra all the sudden, but it sounds too much like her to be anyone else.

  15. nina Says:

    People being scared. It leads to: wars, aggression, silence, ridicule, murder, destruction…. In light of which not handing over a cell phone seems tame. Still, I don’t get it. Fear is the devil, I swear.
    Good goin’ Jenny.

  16. Anne Says:

    I feel so much beter about myself now- I think. Coming back from Europe last summer my plane was diverted from Houston to Dallas and back again- needless to say it made us quite late. When we were on the runway in Dallas I gave my phone to numerous people to use, and OMG! they started speaking in tongues, or perhaps Greek or something, when they used it. Geez, how stupid am I? I offered without being asked- no telling what would have happened if they had scrolled through my personal numbers. Shudder!!