The guy was yelling at her so loudly that everyone in baggage claim area #4 watched them out of the corner of their eyes. He paused to point out the signage and how she had clearly bleep-bleep-bleeped it up. He seemed to grow taller and she continued to disappear into her already slight frame. I’m sure she wished the escalator would swallow her up while I hoped it would swallow him up.
Just a few minutes later as I head towards the platform to catch the train to remote parking I hear that yelling again.
There they were at the very end of the platform. The guy kept yelling and calling her names we tell our children are mean and shouldn’t be used. My heart was pumping as he kept yelling, flailing his arms, getting in her face and then backing off. I looked around and there were just a few of us at first, but after another three minutes a crowd was watching this unfold, keeping to the other end of the platform.
What would you have done?
Well, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t just stand there. Sometimes, and this may have been one of those times, the voice inside my head filter doesn’t work. I couldn’t ignore the voice in my own soul that told me to use my little voice.
So I did. Never mind how angry I also felt knowing that there were several other potentially more menacing types on the platform – dude, put your ski bag down and walk over here!
I walked up to her, put my hand on her shoulder while making sure I didn’t leave my bags unattended lest I look like the crazy one, and I said, “Ma’am, are you OK? Do you need some help here? Are you in any physical harm?”
And then I gave him a quick look.
She said she was fine, and then she sat up. And he took a few steps back and quieted down a bit. And then she stood up, said a few words to him, and then she walked just past me so that I was physically in between them on the platform. One minute later he walked away in a huff, leaving her on the platform and presumably leaving behind his ride home.
She and I got on the same train car, and she explained that she couldn’t find the right pick-up area. She went on to explain she got lost and that she was tired. She was trying to get her bearings straight after a verbal assault, and I again put my hand on her shoulder and told her that no one had the right to call her all the names that he did so that he could feel better about himself. And then she cried.
It’s been a slow ramp-up to Christmas. Maybe it’s the lack of snow. But that encounter at the airport so very late Sunday night made me think about Mary and how in a time when the world around her and the circumstances she found herself in could have rendered her voiceless she found the courage to use her voice and proclaimed God’s mercy and power.
I saw that guy yelling, telling one woman that she was stupid and silencing others with his anger. I didn’t yell, but I learned to use my voice.