Jonaya’s story: THE BEST BYSTANDER STORY OF ALL TIME.

It was wet, and cold. I was carrying 20 lbs of cat food, and my cell phone was dying. I wanted to be off the bus and go home. Wet and rainy Los Angeles is a dismal place, everything misses the sun. As usual, I read Jezebel and Reddit for a bit on my phone till it died. I had ignored the other passengers until then, so when I put it away, I looked up. There, in front of me was a scene that made my skin crawl.

In two seater across from me was a young woman desperately looking out the window. Uncomfortable and visibly upset. The reason was obvious. A drunk man was whispering to her. His voice got louder and is words were clear.

“Oh? You can’t talk to me? You should talk to me. I don’t like white women. You’re pretty. I like black women. I’m just trying to talk to you before I go home to my black woman.”

He was touching her. Actually touching her.

“You should tell your boyfriend he’s messing up,” he said, ever closer.

I looked around to my fellow passengers, and many were upset. They weren’t doing anything though. No one was doing anything as the woman shrank into herself before my eyes. Smaller and Smaller. Bit by bit. Was no one going to help? Did anyone see?

I looked at him angrily. No, of course not. Everyone would hope she could handle herself. Don’t make waves, you could drown.

Well, fuck that nonsense.

I know how she felt. I know how you feel like if you just scrunch up and look unhappy, they’ll leave you alone. They won’t follow you home. They won’t hang outside the gate. I wished many times someone would stand up for me. The least I could do, was stand up for her. I wasn’t unafraid. He could have had a knife, but weapon or no weapon, I couldn’t sit there while she endured that.

“You got a problem, sister?”

He turned towards me, rheumy eyed. I felt bad for him in a small way, someone loved him once. I thought briefly of my family. Anger burned away that sympathetic comparison.

“I do,” I said in a tone I reserved for the three year olds I teach on a daily basis. “You’re making her uncomfortable. It’s not polite, to talk to people the way you’re talking to her.”

“Well, what-” he started.

“Well, nothing,” I finished, a familiar voice creeping into calmer tones. “She is very uncomfortable and you need to leave her alone. You are GOING to leave her alone. You have no right to talk to her like that.”

I heard my mother echo in my voice. The reproachfulness of my grandmother. Fear ebbed away, and adrenaline took its place.

“I’m going to let you finish,” he said, leaning towards me. As if that was a gift. Letting me finish. In the meantime the woman slid from her seat with the help of an older woman. She passed him with ease, because he had found a new target: Me.

“I AM finished. You needed to leave her alone. She was unhappy, and didn’t want to talk to you.” I turned and let her scoot past into an empty seat next to the driver. “Sit over there Momma and don’t worry about it.”

“Where you from?”

“New Jersey,” I replied easily. “Not that it matters, I barely got out.”

“New Jersey? FUCK New Jersey. I’m from Watts. I’m from Compton. You don’t know nothing. Let’s take this outside. Where’s your stop?”

Now I really was unafraid. He wanted to take this to the street, well, fine. “I don’t care where you’re from brother.” Now the tones I used were cold, and my eyes narrowed. I didn’t back down and I didn’t flinch. “You cannot talk to a young woman like that. You have no right to make her feel that way. You have no right to talk to her that way. And you certainly don’t have a right to talk to me. So you need to rethink what you’re saying. My Momma taught me manners, and so I’m not even going to answer you like that.”

“Hey, Jersey.” Beside me was a solid woman in fatigue pants and boots. She smiled down on me, and I knew her instantly. One of the owners of Panpipes. Her presence was an added boost.

He got up and moved to the front, cursing me out and telling me off as he went. He was going to do all sorts of horrible things to me.

Fuck him.

The bus driver tried to drive and tell him to calm down. It didn’t work. He got worse. I set down my bag. Clinched my fists. Wondered if someone would hold my earrings.

“You’re going to leave her alone,” the woman fatigues said. In one moment, there was a little bond, and it spread. We were ready for a fight. He was going to lose.

“Did I do something wrong?” The woman he had originally harassed looked unsure, guilty.

I smiled, “You didn’t do anything honey. He has no business touching you. He has no business talking to you like that. It isn’t right.”

At that he set off again, and the bus driver calmly said, “Sir, this is your stop.”

“No, it isn’t,” he replied, the slur in his voice gone due to anger.

“Oh. Yes. It. IS.” And off the bus he went.

He gave me the finger. We all waved.

Stand up for someone. Make waves. Someone else may help you swim.

Author:

39 Responses

Author comments are in a darker gray color for you to easily identify the posts author in the comments

  1. Peter says:

    what a BRILLIANT story!

  2. Jenn says:

    The title says it all. This is AMAZING.

  3. Gabo Gardea says:

    Yeah man!!! Thats fucking awesome!!! Next time some one is giving shit to someone else while im there i will certainly stan up dude!!
    Awesome post man!!!
    Wish we could all be like this!!

  4. Becky says:

    Marvelous. You inspire me. Thank you.

  5. Donna says:

    Had a guy accost me at the bus stop telling me he needed 4 solid dollars. I did not have it to give. He did not stop until the lady next to me gave him the money. I have not used the metrolink or bus since.

  6. Virginia says:

    Hell yes! The last line gave me chills!

  7. Cristella says:

    Amazing! I agree, people need to stand for up to good and fight the evil.

  8. Alex says:

    AMAZING story.
    Thank you for existing. I’ve been in that girl’s place before and it’s one of the most helpless feelings, please carry on being so damn awesome.

  9. Mary Ann Smale says:

    If everyone took the time and trouble to act like this there would be far less trouble in this world! Great story, thanks for sharing.

  10. Jessica says:

    Thanks for the story. Gave me chills. Gave me courage.

  11. Claudia says:

    Bravo. Wish more people would be brave enough to do things like this!

  12. Daniel says:

    Jonaya, when I read this story, I am proud to know you. Most of us know what is right, but are too afraid to do it. The world needs more people like you.

  13. Eila says:

    It’s nice to know that there are still some people out there that aren’t afraid to get involved. That took courage….he could have had a weapon. Go girl!

  14. Kaitlyn says:

    You are incredible. I feel such pride in humanity, for that man had none, and you are filled to the brim. Thank you.

    I promise to make waves.

  15. Isabel says:

    *Clap clap clap* Finally, someones breaking the bystander effect! you go girl

  16. patience says:

    lets hear it for having mommas that taught how it’s supposed to be!

  17. God bless you for your bravery and compassion. That young woman learned a few lessons from you that night.

  18. Wavemaker says:

    BRAVO!!!

  19. Cheyenne says:

    HELL YES.

  20. Kerri says:

    Never FUCK with a Jersey girl!

  21. Ellen says:

    I also think this is awesome writing. The subject has to be addressed strongly and more often. There are too many victims out there.

    Thank you for reminding me to stand up and help when I can.

  22. meatball says:

    that was incredible, WE need to have more COURAGE like this

  23. kat says:

    thank you

  24. eldarcj says:

    Brah! VO! You *rock*!!!! I have always made it a point to stand up for someone who is being harassed or bullied….there needs to be more people like you who do the same. People need to know that there are those of us out there who will *not* put up with it!

  25. A Girl says:

    Finally, finally!!!! Someone stood up and did the right thing. This story is amazing. It’s fantastic. If we all had the “balls” to stand up and band together, we might, just MIGHT make it.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope we all can have the courage you showed.

    Finally, someone tried harder….thank you.

  26. hothead says:

    llooooove it!!

  27. chocyotter says:

    So much admiration for the courage shown here. I saw something like this when I was about 14, but the guy wasn’t drunk he had downs and he didn’t mean any harm but the poor woman looked so uncomfortable, I wish I’d done something but I assumed the 5 or so men nearby would help…they didn’t and I didn’t know how. I’d never let it happen now though.

  28. magdalene says:

    once i saw a mirror image of this story. the poor girl couldn’t creep into a smaller pile on her seat. she told him she was married and he knew it for a lie. i sat beside and told him she was married. he said he didn’t ‘see no ring’. i didnt say a word i just stared at him. my eyes said does it matter? would she say that if she was interested? are you proud to be a louse? he looked away and left her alone. the look she gave me was crushing it was so grateful.

    uuugh.

  29. winelips says:

    reminds me of an event that happened to me… I was at my normal bus stop a little later than usual after a long night at work. When I got there, there was a young Chinese girl being harassed by a group of African American teenagers. Their ring leader was a large girl who was very menacing – she kept knocking the girls’ school books to the ground and pushing her. The poor girl just kept trying to ignore them and move away. No one at the bus stop was doing anything but I could tell they all felt as frustrated as me at being so powerless to help
    I was getting more and more angry – & when the bus rolled up, the young Chinese girl moved quickly to the front of the line to get on and I lined up directly behind her to try and block her from the taunts. The gang of bullies lined up behind me with the ring leader actually leaning over me to hit the back of the girl’s head. That’s all it took. When the young girl moved onto the bus, I stepped up on the bus step behind her which gave me a bit of leverage and without thinking, I turned around, palmed the gnag leader’s face, and shoved her as hard as I could to the ground. Her buddies were shocked. The girl went tumbling backwards and I quickly got on the bus.
    The rest of her gang ran to help her – they pulled her up – she was furious and they all started screaming and pushing people out of the way to get on the bus and attack me. The folks at the stop crowded around the door to bar their entrance, they calmly payed their fares and slowly moved on to the bus. There were some pushing to get on the bus and others were using open windows to climb up the sides – arms in the windows pointing at me “That’s the one, the read head! We’re gonna kill that bitch.” (me.)
    It felt like we were at that stop for an hour but it was probably no more than 3 – 4 minutes but all the while these animals were screaming in the windows waiting their turn to get on – ready to kick my ass.
    I sat calmly flipping through a magazine ignoring them which seemed to infuriate them more. My heart was beating a zillion times a minute and I had sweat pouring from my forehead. I have never been so scared in my life. But I just sat there staring at my magazine.
    As soon as the first of the gang got to the door of the bus the bus driver slammed the door in her face and sped away.
    I finally breathed. And realized that everyone else on the bus was holding their breath as well.
    But unfortunately the next stop wasn’t too far away and the gang took off running after us.
    Bless the bus drivers heart – he blew past the next stop and lost the punks as we headed off though the Broadway tunnel.
    No one on the bus ever said a word to me. But at each stop any person who witnessed the whole scene would squeeze my shoulder as they walked past to get off.
    I never thanked the bus driver (wish I knew his name,he literally saved my life) the Chinese girl never thanked me and not one passenger ever said a word but I felt their relief and that helped me justify the fact that i resorted to violence to attempt to rectify what I saw as a terrible injustice.
    I get angry now, years later just remembering how frightened that poor kid was.

  30. Matan says:

    FUCK YES, you are someone that people should model after. The bystander effect is horrible and it takes one person to step up, and you did. KUDOS

  31. Nikole says:

    Your story gave me goosebumps. Way to stay in firm in your beliefs, and doing it in such a civil manner. :) Much love your way.

  32. Kristen says:

    Fantastic! This is the kind of thing I would have done, so I really felt an adrenaline rush from reading it. Thank you for sharing it!

  33. Ora says:

    Jersey. Stand Up! That made me so proud to be born and bred in Dirty Jerz. =)

  34. Zarja says:

    May… or may not. I have made an ass of myself standing up for someone on the bus or in a store and took the beating while everyone else was just staring, some of them slightly amused. I am probably going to do this again, as that’s how I was brought up.

  35. Julianne says:

    You are AWESOME. Thank you.

  36. Love, love, love, love love the final line. All of it is great and that last line should be accompanied by music.

  37. Salli Porty says:

    Wow! Amen for you. These are the kind of people we need in our environment; People who are not afraid to stand up for themselves and other people. This story made my day knowing that someone was actually going to sleep in comfort, both the victim and the defender

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