Taking the 3:10 home…


Riding the train home, I was sitting on a seat by myself when I was tapped on the shoulder from behind: 

"I just got home from jail…."    at this point I stopped listening as my brain asked me, over & over "did he really say "jail "?

He didn't seem threatening – he was actually not that badly dressed though he did have odd shoes on.  I asked him to repeat what he said and then I still couldn't get past "jail"  – I think he was asking for money.  I was so confused I just shook my head when his mouth stopped moving.

I watched him walk forward in the carriage and noted that he only approached people on their own – he did not discriminate between black or white, male or female.  No-one gave him anything or entered into further conversation.   Perhaps he hoped the word "jail"  would work as an intimidation tactic though, from what I could see, it was not successful.  

Maybe we are so jaded that we assume anyone approaching us on the metro is going to beg so we are preparing the no in our heads before they open their mouths – no matter what they ultimately say.   

I wonder if he really was just released….

Here comes the train:

  There goes the train:

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38 responses

  1. Hmmm, knowing nothing about his situation, I must say I feel sorry for the guy. It's not easy exiting the slammer with empty pockets. Are you fairly certain he was seeking money? Perhaps he was just seeking listeners for his happy news. I dunno, I think if it'd been me, and all things appearing as you described, i.e., OK dress, not brandishing a weapon, no crazy rantings, I'd have invited dialogue, but that's just me.

  2. First your title all I could thing of was that movie 3:10 to yuma where they were taking a prisoner to Jail??? then I read your story Hummmmm So in your version he was headed home from Jail?? And for all you know it was just a line to see what kind of reaction he would get from people ( one dumbfounded Aussie) Or maybe he was looking for a date?? I will not tell you how many out of Jail people I have meet over the years, but the city I lived in there were 4 large prisons males and 1 large Prison for Females and how I got to know was my one job we used to develop and print all the photos from prisons, scary at how many are out on day passes and how many I have sat with and had a drink with! strange world we live in Eh! Be careful and quit talking to strangers!

  3. It's sad that we have to think "danger"! first, but really, it's the safest thing to do. I try to have a five stuck in my pocket so if I do approached by someone I can give it to them. But, this is only after being caught off guard and saying "No" and feeling bad.

  4. On my train people don't tend to just approach others for conversation – the friendly "vibe" is just not there. I felt sorry for him the more I thought about it afterwards..

  5. Yes – safety first! I might have been more receptive if he had come level with me and started with "excuse me" (I was reading) instead of prodding me from behind and then starting off with his news.

  6. Given that this is the DC Metro, you could read "Congress" for "jail" with equal accuracy…The panhandlers on the Metro are a problem, but not nearly as bad as they are in Chicago. Having all of those Metro officers "on duty" (i.e., safely stashed in their booths) does do some good.In any case, I always tell the panhandler where he can get help. Thrive DC at 309 E Street Northwest offers help and has a list of other resources. I usually had a couple of copies in my backpack to give to the panhandler, and let them know that my donations went exclusively to Thrive DC. That puts the burden on the panhandler; if he truly wants/needs help, he knows where to go to get it. And it is in walking distance (everything is in walking distance in DC!).John

  7. I would be startled into fear from being tapped from behind, too.
    I really like John's approach of offering information on a place to receive help.
    Cool pictures. I like how the lights on the platform glow pink.

  8. Yes. The approach really helps the situation. It helps me to try to think about situations that might occur in the future. I want to help anyone who needs it, but if I am startled I usually freeze. I am not happy about my reaction. Hubby and I were loading our groceries into the car at night in a dark parking lot when a man and woman approached us. They looked "down and out" ….whatever that means…but they put our guard up…then they asked us to drive them home. "Our car broke down and we have to get home to our grandkids."We were taken aback and said that we couldn't drive them home. "Well, then" they said "there's a bus coming soon that's only $2." We gladly gave them money for the bus. I suppose that is what they wanted in the first place. But, I think next time I would ask them if they wanted me to call them a two truck for their broken down car. They probably thought that if they had asked for bus fare we would have said no. And I don't know if we would have or not. I hope not. But….I try to prepare myself for the next time because I don't want to brush people off…but it's still a very deeply ingrained defense mechanism.

  9. "I do not have a lot of sympathy for people who can work who do not. Call me cold hearted." Bettina, are you aware that there are about 16 million in America who would love nothing more than to work, who can work and want to work and are trying to find jobs and cannot? You say you have no sympathy but I hope you will find some because millions are without work by no choice of their own and are really really really hurting.

  10. This guy needs to take panhandling classes. The line to use is – "I just got home from (either) Irag/Afghanistan." He probably still wouldn't get any money, but he would be scaring the bejeebers out of people.

  11. If I would have been sitting there by myself it would have probably scared me to get poked from behind because my started reflex is in overdrive right now. I certainly would have been surprised by what he said and I don't know how I would have handled it.

  12. Sorry, I should have been more clear. I meant with the people who try to scam/rob others instead of working, who actively choose to not work. I do have a heart definitely for those who are out of work and suffering for it. And there are plenty of them in the UK as well.

  13. That reminds me of a story I heard where someone was asking train riders for "money for a fare" – a man had some spare metro cards so he pulled them out and gave them to the asker. The guy looked at them in disgust, threw them down and walked away.

  14. Carrying the information is a great idea John. Martha's Table is not far from us (we actually donate to them) and there are places in Mt Pleasant. I have the hypothermia hotline number with me incase I see anyone out in the cold air – they send a bus to pick them up. (Metro just decommissioned some old transit buses to assist with this).

  15. Those lights used to flash "white" when a train was coming – they've only recently changed them all over to the pink/red. Yes generally on the metro you are only being tapped when you are being jostled in the crowd or the victim of a pickpocket!

  16. I know what you are saying. For 5 months in 2008 I took a taxi to work because my leg was in plaster – I had one driver tell me that he had a regular client who he picked up in the suburbs of Virginia, every morning, and drove into McPherson Square (near the White House) where she would approach tourists for money. At the end of the day she rode a taxi back home to a very nice house. She made more than minimum wage doing this and didn't need much outlay on wardrobe etc.

  17. Oh crap…that's the kind of thing that really makes any of us not want to help people out. My cousin was in a grocery store parking lot and a guy came up and asked her for money. She offered him the $10 worth of returnable soda cans that she had, if he wanted to take them in the store and redeem them. No thanks. He walked off without the cans. Pfffft.

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