Even in The City of Good Living…

As I was walking north on Laurel today, passing the post office, an older1 woman walking south — nicely dressed, nothing odd about her — passed an Hispanic/Asian2 family, including a young teen boy, also going north.

And proceeded to lambast them about needing to go home to their own country, because they weren’t wanted here. She also complained about how unfair it was she had to live with such people. She glanced at me as we passed each other, giving me one of those non-verbal signs that mean “can you believe what you & I have to put up with?”

I was totally flabbergasted. I’ve read about terrible behavior like this…but in San Carlos?!? In broad daylight? In public? At lunch time when there were people around?

I picked up my pace to go talk to the folks she’d insulted, reaching them just before they got to Harrington Park. I told them I was on the Council and said while I knew it wouldn’t mean much, I wanted to apologize on behalf of the community for what they’d been subjected to. I told them the vast majority of people in San Carlos were decent folk who welcomed visitors and that I hoped they’d enjoy their visit to our fine city.

I think I got through to them. I hope it helped correct a sad experience.

Wow.


  1. white 

  2. I think the dad was Hispanic. Masks make it difficult to tell sometimes. 

3 thoughts on “Even in The City of Good Living…”

  1. Amy Schwimmer

    I’m flabbergasted by this story, Mark. It’s great that you reached out to the attacked family. I would have been much more inclined, I think, to start out by screaming at the abusive woman. It sounds like you didn’t indicate to her your dismay at her diatribe? I’m curious what your thinking was in not doing so. I understand that a) it’s hard to think on one’s feet in any surprising situation before the opportunity to take action has passed, much less think of the best thing to say/do and b) people may think it’s not worth trying to get through to such misguided people at all, but I feel that unless the abusive party poses a physical threat, they should know that others find their behavior unacceptable at best. Thanks.

  2. Kathryn Eden

    Uggghhh…. I hate that it happened but am grateful you were there to try to make it right. Also, since it happened so fast, you obviously had to make a choice between confronting the jerk (technical term there) and comforting the recipient of the jerk’s behavior. I think you made the right call.

  3. Mark Olbert

    That’s a good question, Amy, and one that I’ve thought about since the incident. My highest priority was to help the injured. Also, confronting someone whose anti-social tendencies suggests they don’t respond to social suasion would likely be a waste of time. Not to mention, say, getting into a shouting match with a nimrod wouldn’t necessarily help the injured parties. In fact, it might well make things worse for them, putting them in the center of a storm they might simply wish to distance themselves from.

    But helping the injured and condemning the perpetrator aren’t mutually exclusive, done right. I could’ve told the woman something as simple as “You’re entitled to your opinion. So am I. Here’s mine: what you did is disgusting, unseemly, hateful, and has no place in our community” and then gone off to talk to the family.

    I just didn’t think of all that quickly enough. So it’s a reasonable critique which I’ll keep in mind in the future. Although I hope, for other reasons, that I never have call to apply the lesson.

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