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Did I fail? - Elf M. Sternberg
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elfs
Did I fail?
Last night, after the light rail dropped me off at my stop, as I was walking to my car a woman who had been on the train started walking toward the street, then stopped and asked me, "Excuse me, how far is it from here to Tacoma?"

"Tacoma?" I said. "Are you walking?" She nodded. "It's 15 miles from here to Tacoma."

"I thought... I thought Federal Way was just down that way."

"Yeah, about four miles. Then, Fife I think, then Tacoma." She was a thin woman wearing only a thin hoody. It was 51°F out, night was coming soon, and it was drizzling.

"Really 15 miles?"

"Yeah. This is exit... 151, and the dome's at 136, so, yeah, 15 miles. And that's before you actually get into the city. It's at least a half-day's walk."

"A half day?"

"I can do twenty miles on a good day with good boots, yeah."

She looked downtrodden. "Okay, thanks. Gotta cigarette?"

"I don't smoke, sorry."

She nodded and started walking.

I later realized I was off by one mile; the freeway exit is 150, so it was only 14 miles. I suspected she hadn't even paid to be on the train, but had ghosted, which is risky but if you're lucky the transit fare people will miss your train and won't check your pass.

Encounters like this are the opposite of dealing with crazy people on transit. I wanted to help, but I didn't feel I could offer it, and she didn't feel she could ask for more. We aren't taught how to deal with stories like this, and I wish I understood better why we aren't, and what I could have done differently.

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Comments
sirfox From: sirfox Date: November 2nd, 2016 09:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
the only immediately apparent thing that comes to mind is if there's any bus service between them, if there was a transit ticket/discount widget she could push a button a get that might help, and/or, would bus fare to Tacoma be in the "i have this in change in my pocket right now" or "i'd hafta break a 20..."

that's on the practical side of things, emotionally, socially, there is no good answer. A situation like that i'd want to offer them a lift. I don't have a habit of being a serial killer, but lots of victims thought the ride they accepted from their killers was safe too. By that same token, Hypothermia deaths normally top 1000 per year, and you don't need to be in a blizzard. one soaking splash from a puddle or the persistent drizzle you mentioned, plus a stiff breeze in 40-50°F weather, and you can be Having A Bad Time reaaaaly quickly. And then ya hafta go try and sleep wondering what became of them.

bunnybutt From: bunnybutt Date: November 3rd, 2016 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)
What I would have done in that situation is offer to call the woman an Uber if it would get her to safety. I could totally afford the $20 it would have cost, the app allows me to pre-pay so no funds change hands, and I could have slept knowing I helped someone who was vulnerable.

I'm curious why you "didn't feel you could offer" help to this woman?

I totally get why she didn't feel she could ask for help, but I don't understand what blocked you from rendering it? I don't mean to sound harsh, but in an uncomfortable situation where there is a significant power/privilege imbalance, I believe it is incumbent upon the person with more power/privilege to do the right thing.
en_ki From: en_ki Date: November 3rd, 2016 04:21 am (UTC) (Link)
FWIW, the Uber is closer to $40-50, but for $5 you can get a bus.

I'm pretty much agreed with you on what one ought to do.
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