Service of Hit and Run

August 11th, 2014

Categories: Caring, Help, Hit and Run

A good friend raised my goose bumps when she told me two men deep in conversation ran into her on Lexington Avenue near Grand Central Station three months ago, knocking her to the ground. They kept on walking, never looking back. Another man and a policeman helped her up and checked that she was alright. She is.

A few weeks ago, inside the station, a man slammed into me with such force that he threw me into the path of another man and I bumped into him. I apologized, he looked at me as though I had nerve and the first person, long gone, never said a word.

Another friend reached her upstate New York stop one Friday night on a commuter train with a dog that was so anxious to hit the grass she dragged her down the stairs so she fell. Did the passenger behind her stop to help her up? Nope. He hopped over her as though she was a puddle and dashed off to the parking lot.

Years ago I flew in the air and then to the ground on a subway platform as I walked from a local to an express train. The young man who crashed into me because he was running on the platform at top speed was mortified, apologetic, helped me up, and kept asking me if I was OK as I hobbled into the second subway.

So what’s going on today?

I’ve lived in this city most of my life. I had a kind of antenna that guided me through crowds, across busy streets and on swarming sidewalks with zero contact most of the time. Is the city more crowded now? Are there no more unwritten rules of navigation?  Wherever we live are we so deadened to what’s going on around us we can cause injury and not even realize it?


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8 Responses to “Service of Hit and Run”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    A yes to your last question, “Wherever we live are we so deadened to what’s going on around us we can cause injury and not even realize it?” would seem to be the most probable explanation for the behavior you describe.

    We seem to be inured to disaster near and far, on a grand and limited scale. The public has varying degrees of actual concern, sympathy or empathy, for the myriad misfortunes and disasters that are churned out 24 hours a day by what really should be called a faux news industry. There are always dramatic and unnecessary gory details that accompany bad news. The routine of expressed sorrow, creation of ad hoc shrines, invasive interviews or descriptions of victims and survivors or bereaved has become a morbid and routine kind of programming generating cynicism.

    Concurrently no one seems to feel it necessary to recommend or instruct about basic manners, consideration and the golden rule. The “Kitty Genovese” story has been in the news again recently. We certainly have not evolved from that era in spite of all the technological innovations available to us. Today’s overwhelming. An
    all-pervasive egocentric mantra of self-satisfaction and self-fulfillment in our pop cultures leaves no necessity or room for thoughtful or considerate behavior. However the cost of this behavioral shift is high in many areas of society.

  2. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna Boyle Schwartz wrote on Facebook: “Used to come home with bruises on the fronts of my thighs from people hitting me with briefcases…not sure if it’s better or worse now!”

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I cannot argue with your take on the situation. Perpahs the two men who knocked down my friend in front of Grand Central and the one who flew over my other friend who was on her bruised knees on the stairs leaving the railroad station figured someone else could help: They were too important. Or perhaps neither woman was bloody and bashed up sufficiently to reach their consciousness.

    Sad state of affairs.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I don’t remember that. Today folks are battered by backpacks!

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Lack of consideration is an aspect of human nature which is not about to change. Meet the suburban bubble brain in his/her gas guzzler, chatting and texting while driving about local parking lots or highways, totally unaware of surroundings, let alone traffic. I’ll take being knocked down in the city. It’s safer.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You describe a horrific situation…with devastating repercussions. My friend is fragile and being tossed on an unforgiving sidewalk might have done considerable damage to her.

    My car doesn’t have the gizmo that alerts me to an oncoming vehicle and when sandwiched by SUVs in a parking lot I quiver as I inch out of my spot hoping not to hear the crunch of metal. Add the chatterer/texter and the chances of a dustup increases.

    Speaking of bubble brains, I just got off the phone with a friend who described a shooting over the weekend in the south where nobody called the police–instead they took pictures with their smartphones. Ice in their veins or what?

  7. JPM Said:

    I’m no scientist, but I’ve heard of experiments in which various forms of living matter, including human beings, were crowded into fixed, limited spaces, then permitted to breed, and eventually gradually deprived of sustenance. Invariably, as panic set in, the anti-social, often violent, reaction of each species to its environment dramatically increased.

    There is nothing surprising about the, at best, crassly careless human behavior you describe. Indeed, given the way mankind multiplies and needlessly accelerates its consumption of the diminishing natural resources available to it, years ago some warned us of what is now happening. (Please note that the growing slaughter of human beings around the world in the name of God or ideology, state or tribe, is part of the same phenomena.) People are beginning to panic, although they may not realize it. They are grabbing and striking out from fear because they sense that there is “no way out,” no future for them and theirs.

    A devastatingly literal description of human behavior in a population faced with certain doom can be found in the distinguished Scottish scientist Alfred Walter Stewart’s remarkable 1923 novel, “Nordenholt’s Million,” (written under the pseudonym, “JJ Connington.”) In it, Smith details how an ecological disaster has doomed life on earth, and has a small fraction of its population saved through the use of atomic energy fifteen years before the actual discovery of nuclear fission. He knew.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You paint a gloomy yet realistic picture. So some of us already are showing the signs of grabbing for lifebelts while elbowing others off the ship. Oh my.

    I’m not familiar with Alfred Walter Stewart/JJ Connington. I heard that starfish are disappearing in huge numbers this year on both Pacific and Atlantic coasts, more than any before recorded. That’s troublesome when you add bees, frogs and countless other animals to the list. This would not surprise Alfred W Stewart.

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