Susan Ryder is fighting fire with fire . . .
I lived an hour away in neighbouring Connecticut and had dinner plans in the city that evening, so had gone in earlier to do some shopping. As it transpired, I ended up with time to kill and noticed that the newly-released film A Room with a View was showing at a theatre on Central Park adjacent to The Plaza Hotel, the timing of which suited perfectly.
I ducked in seconds before it started to find the theatre about two-thirds full, with plenty of spare seats. I selected one in the middle of an empty row of seven or eight not too far from the entrance.
A good twenty minutes into the film, the door opened and a chap ambled in. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him search for a seat. Passing numerous vacancies en route, he made a beeline for my row and sat directly to my right.
I was instantly wary. You see, that never happens. In public places, people do not sit next to strangers if there are other seats to be had. This man had his pick of vacant seats - blocks of them - and yet he chose one right beside an unaccompanied female.
There was every reason to be uncomfortable. Everything about him screamed out of place. He smelled badly and his appearance was decidedly unkempt. More than that though, he showed no interest in the film. I decided the best course of action was to ignore him as I would any other patron.
But I couldn’t. Even though I was staring straight ahead at the screen, I could sense him staring at me and it was no longer creepy, but scary, particularly as he was sitting very close and to make matters worse (for me), I was wearing shorts. So to create a physical barrier between us, I made quite a production of transferring my several bags of shopping from my left to my right, while shifting my weight as far as I could to the left, hoping like hell that he would take the hint.
He didn’t. He just kept staring and leaning towards me breathing audibly while I became more and more agitated. I was watching the screen but seeing nothing. My mind was racing, my pulse was throbbing and I was trying hard not to panic. All manner of scenarios were flooding my mind. What would I do when the movie finished? Would he follow me out of the theatre? Perhaps I could run straight into The Plaza for help? This was pre-Giuliani New York City after all, when crime was endemic.
To this day I’m not exactly sure what happened next but I think I felt a hand on my leg. I say “think” because by that point I was so keyed up I may have imagined it. No matter – I’d had enough, anyway. I made a split decision and let rip.
I turned to look him straight in the eye and yelled at the top of my voice “Stop it right now! And get out this minute!!”
That did it. His eyebrows shot up and he jumped up in shock. And then he ran for his life. He was up the aisle and out the door before I could tell him to bugger off a second time. It’s strange how your mind’s eye is capable of seeing things in slow motion that in reality happen quickly. In the blink of an eye, the power base had shifted and I was in control. The victim had turned victor – and the bully didn’t like it one little bit.
I was reminded about that with the weekend news that “bullying was rife in New Zealand schools” - note the use of the collective once again - and that authorities were “discussing measures.” Expecting nothing of use then, the Children’s Commissioner, (no stranger to futility), still managed to beggar belief with the suggested solution to “stagger the lunchtimes.”
Te Kiro can suspend the lunchtimes altogether if she wants to, but nothing will change. Nasty little bastards will still behave like nasty little bastards before, during and after class. And that’s ignoring technology that has created a whole new sphere of 24 hour text-torture.
Bullying is as old as prostitution. It’s not new -- it’s just nastier thanks largely to policies of appeasement by the usual suspects. There's a time-honoured tradition of dealing with bullying, and that's to meet it head on. The usual suspects can hand-wring and chest-clutch all they like to no avail. Knock it on the head, hard. It's the only thing that has ever worked.
Bullies know exactly what they're doing. My heart goes out to the poor little mites they choose to terrorise ... and delight in doing so. And as for the usual claptrap about bullies and backgrounds, well, if nowhere else they’d soon learn to at least behave at school. I’m over the excuses.
I don’t enjoy making scenes; I don’t know anyone who does. I certainly didn’t that afternoon in New York with everybody in the theatre turning to stare after I shouted. But desperate situations call for desperate measures and there is little more important than one’s personal safety. The measure I chose did the trick and ten seconds later everyone was back watching the film and my problem had vanished.
I was taught that bullies were cowards at heart. Stand up to them and they usually dissolve. I sure as hell wasn’t going to tolerate that loser picking on me for his own screwed-up pleasure because he (wrongly) deduced that I was an easy target.
I wonder if he ever tried it again. One thing’s for sure: just like the school bully given a dose of his own medicine, he’d certainly think twice before doing so.
Cindy Kiro et al might like to think about that, too. Twice, if need be.