I was instructing my son on the finer points of gas dispensing (er, in regards to vehicles) when something across the parking lot caught his eye. He watched for a moment and then alarmed,
Mom that girl is getting beat up and someone has taken her stuff!
Yes, that big girl has her bag and the guy hit her about 4 or five times really hard on the legs. The other girl was hitting her too.
I watch for a few moments and it appears that the big girl (who happens to be a sturdily-built Polynesian) is going through the contents of a blue backpack. Another girl seems to be trying to get at her and a boy is pushing at her with his skateboard.
Hey!!! I yell from my spot next to the gas pumps.
All the kids look over at me, my hands on my hips.
What are you doing taking her stuff? Give it back! I say this in the most authoritative adult voice I can muster. I'll admit that at over 100 feet away it's not all that effective.
Big girl says, I'm not taking her stuff. Implying that she'll give it back. Eventually.
The man at the tank next to me asks what's going on and I give him the Reader's Digest version.
He shakes his head and mutters, I'll kick their ass (more in an effort, I think, to impress me. He wouldn't do any real ass-kicking, that's clear).
We keep watching as the kids go back to their strange game.
The man says, with a little eye roll, Good thing you yelled at them.
My calf muscles are quivering, bouncing my heels in time to my rapid-fire heart beat. I respond, I'm pretty sure she could beat me up.
He looks me up and down-I am still in my biking shorts and tank top-and with a little smirk he adds, I'm pretty sure you could out run her.
Back in the parking lot, Victim Girl makes a grab for something, flips it open. A phone.
I yell at Big Girl, throwing my voice at her, You want me to call the police? Give her stuff back! (Oh my gosh, are my legs ever shaking. I'm totally scared. I wonder if they can tell at that distance. I wonder if my son can and he's standing right next to me).
It's obvious he's dying of embarrassment, but he also feels sorry for the girl. I can't believe they hit her mom. Why would a guy hit a girl?
Finally, the tank is full. We get back in the car and I tell my son I'm going to drive over and get a closer look. He begs me not to go up to them.
We drive closer and I weigh my options. I lock the doors and roll my window down a couple of inches.
Mom, don't drive over there. Don't talk to them. Don't. He visibly shrinks in his seat. I imagine he's thinking, Can someone die from Mortification?
I slow to a stop, What are you doing? Why are you taking her stuff? I am so tough through my barely opened window.
I'm not taking her stuff. Again, the inference that it's a temporary arrangement.
Would you like me to get the manager out here or bring in the police? (Why do adults always ask dumb questions?)
She looks at me like So what lady? What are you gonna do? I can't believe it, Victim Girl actually looks like she is friends with these people. Big Girl looks at me like I am some kind of Stoopid, sets her mouth in a What-you-gonna-do-about-it smile and slings the stolen backpack over her own shoulders. Then shifts her weight and does her head like that. So there.
The ball is in my court.
She towers over me by a good 4 inches. The other two kids are about my size. The victim is sitting in between them, smiling. I don't have a dog in this fight. I look her, Victim, right in the eyes, and she sneaks a look over at Big Girl. I ask her, You okay?
Yeah, smiling. Sheepish.
Some friends, I say. And we drive off.
Then my son and I talk about what happened and why people do the things they do. How Victim most likely wouldn't have pressed charges had the police been called in even though those kids were old enough they would've gone to Jail and not Juvey.
And then we talked about choosing friends, and respect and somehow the subject of gangs and battered-wife syndrome came up. Mostly my son was shocked to see a boy, nearly a man, hitting a girl, nearly a woman. And how could she sit there next to him smiling after that?
Then he reminded me not to stereotype anyone (ie Skaters, and sturdy-built Polynesian girls) because You don't know, you don't really know them or what was really going on.
He's right. I didn't know.
What would you have done?