Does any one of us really know, deep down, what we are capable of doing to another human being under stressful conditions? Do we have what it takes to rise to the occasion and defend our fellow man? Or will we cave, telling ourselves we took the prudent, if less heroic, path? *
The scene: A small band of bus passengers suffers through a late-morning commute.
The bus driver: A husky, seemingly sane man, moving with the kind of pained gestures that signal either long-standing back pain or one hell of a hangover.
Suddenly, whatever had been holding together the last of the driver's composure broke.
"What is that NOISE?" he screamed. To thirty chattering people, riding a squeaky bus, on a crowded city street, in one of the loudest cities in the world.**
"Shut UP! What is that NOISE?"
He was now sitting on the quietest bus I've ever been on. We eyed him warily. No one risked speaking.
"That NOISE? Who has a radio?"
Dead quiet. Eyes straight ahead, people started shoving i-pods and cell phones into bags as discreetly as possible.
"Does someone have a RADIO?"
The tension was too much. Finally, a voice from the back called, "It's a speaker phone. Someone on here had a speaker phone."
Another one decided to save himself, "That guy!"
The woman on the seat beside the accused dropped her phone into her purse and froze.
The falsely accused man stood. "Hell no. I got no phone," he said.
The bus driver just looked at him.
With a light sigh, the crowd's chosen patsy moved toward the door.
"Getting out of THIS shit," he said. The doors squeaked shut behind him.
No one spoke as the bus moved on.
* Admittedly not the kind of questions you want to be asking in this town.
** WIHDC has not checked this statistic, but it seems about right.