As I approached the platform, I was greeted by a familiar sound - train wheels screetching to a halt, with the faint aroma of burning brakes.
I was at ease, after a 3 hour plane flight and an additional 2 commuting, the train was the easy part. I've travelled by rail hundreds if not thousands of times in NYC and on Amtrak. I am well aware of the loonies, the beggars, and the creeps.
So when I first stepped onto MARTA I wasn't immediately aware of what would soon be a curious experience indeed.
There was a man (Yes, I'm assuming his gender), roughly in his forty's, having a rather animated conversation on what I presumed to be his cell phone. It took me all of 3 min to realize he did not have a phone. As his conversation got heated, beads of sweat began pouring out of his face. He began frantically digging through his pockets, pulling his shirt up, touching himself... basically, he was bugging out.
Pulling out scraps of paper, he began accusing someone of taking his money. Beautiful.
At this point, my girlfriend and I are ready to bounce, and just switch trains. We have a suitcase, my camera bag, her bright pink purse, and we're carrying a blanky... Not exactly well armed, nor prepared, nor up for any of this shit. We just got off our flight
But it got worse. That someone he accused of taking his money... you guessed it... became me.
As we approached the next stop, we perhaps made the biggest mistake, to get off the train to get away from him. I honestly think if we just stood our ground, his delusions would have drifted, and a percieved easy target, would have been unannounced.
Why was this a mistake? Well, it confirmed his delusion. We were getting away with his money. And he was not going to let it just walk away.
We moved train cars, he followed. Slowly approaching, getting louder and more threatening.
We kept moving cars at every stop, no police in sight, except a rent-a-cop whose shift was long over. It was boiling to a head.
We don't really have anywhere to run. Anything either of us said, went unheard. We just wanted to get away.
I was exhausted from travelling, and in no mood to deal with this guy or spend the night in jail or at the hospital getting stitched up and tested.
The next stop, we finally saw the blue lights for a police station. And we hopped out. Our accuser a train car behind, began closing the distance, around the stair case, and coming right at us.
Much to all of our surprises, there was an officer on the platform.
He immediately recognized the situation, that we were strangers, and this man meant harm... and he took action. No, it wasn't another police brutality case. Quite the opposite. He stepped in and separated us from the asshole, effectively diffusing the situation and breaking the aggression, before it escalated. I was actually blown away by how well it was handled.
At this point we each told our stories, ours, you just read, his... an incoherent blather about me taking his money of an ever changing amount from a few bucks to $89. Needless to say, the officer quickly realized the man was not sober and clearly the aggressor.
He was arrested, without any real incident after some further questioning, for threatening us, violating MARTA policy. This lead to them finding drugs on him.
We head down to the PD to make a statement regarding the incident. We were asked if we wished to press charges. Seeing as no one was hurt, and that I had no intention of flying back for such a court date... We declined. He wasn't even going to be prosecuted for the drugs they found (a good thing). We simply just wanted to get away.
Now, as an anarchist, I'm not a huge fan of the police, but this moment really caused me to rethink the problem. In this instance, the officer didn't harm anyone, he actually did his job. I am honestly grateful. The night could have been a lot worse.
But what does this mean for me? for you?
It means that not all cops are bad, they are still individuals, in their own respects. It doesn't mean they're all good or that there isn't a better way. But there is a place for them in our current paradigm.
Granted, I was unarmed because of the laws while travelling. If I had been in a better position to defend myself, sure, things would have gone different. Maybe for the better, but maybe for the worse. The idea that everyone will be able to defend themselves at all times is hopeful at best, and deadly at its worst.
But this plays back into the bystander effect: When there are enough people around, many assume someone else will take care of things. This left us essentially alone, surrounded by a multitude of bystanders unwilling to help us.
As a society, we have shifted this burdon to the authority of the state. While this is a cure to its own hindrance, it is still a hindrance.
It is not the solution, even if it did save my ass.
It's not so much that the system worked, as it was that the system worked, this time, in my favor.