I recently read an article about an alarming trend of 911 calls made in recent months by students at Boston College, which unfortunately was true. Two female students called the police after seeing a mouse run across their floor and later sought counseling. Another called police to report that a classmate had called her a bad name and she no longer felt safe. Again, counseling was sought.

And as much as you want to make fun of them, you don’t dare because it might lead to extensive hospitalization.

Finally, I understand the ramifications of my run-in with a hostile woman years ago while living in Portland, Oregon.

I had been crossing a busy street in downtown on my lunch hour when a woman holding a toddler’s hand on the opposite corner began frantically gesturing and yelling something indecipherable, so I immediately looked around in panic to see if I was about to be run over by a taxi. But no. The street was clear in both directions, and as I neared her I now understood she was actually yelling at me. Apparently, she had just finished telling her child how important it was to wait for the walk sign before crossing and I had now screwed everything up by breaking the law. Did I realize what kind of example I was setting? The other people had waited patiently, she said gesturing to the small crowd around her who were now staring at me with utter contempt, and how was she supposed to explain this to her child. I was speechless. Then the light changed and they were gone.

In my defense, I literally cannot stand still. I know it sounds weird but I have to rock back and forth, which makes people think that either there’s something very wrong with me or that I have to go to the bathroom. It’s a by-product of having ADHD. As a baby, I apparently would put myself to sleep by banging my head repeatedly against the mattress, so in light of that I’ve technically made a lot of progress.

In any case, that day unfortunately, I was too flustered to think of a good come back to her self-righteous baby shaming, and finally I know what I should have said. For starters, I should have explained that I actually did her child a favor by providing a counter example. Instead of yelling at a stranger on a busy street (what kind of message does that send?), she could have just said, “See that stylish lady breaking the law? Don’t do that.” Instead of deluding your child into thinking that they are living in a utopian world where everybody follows rules and behaves perfectly, isn’t it more effective ultimately to give your child the tools and confidence to navigate within the real world?

Hopefully, my jaywalking did not cause her son irreparable harm. Maybe, by now, he’s learned to cross the street on his own.

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