Moment of redemption

I was 21, living and working in Vancouver. I was standing at a busy bus stop on Granville Street with the regular after-work crowd. When the bus arrived, the waiting queue inadvertently pushed a young South Asian girl into an older white gentleman standing in front of her. 

When he turned and saw her in her sari, he went into a hateful racist tirade. I was horrified, and looked around for someone to stop it. 

No one stood up. No one said a word. He continued to harangue her with his bigoted remarks before finally boarding the bus. The rest of us, silent, followed, and the young girl was left standing, in tears, on the sidewalk. 

That image, and my disappointment in my lack of response, has forever haunted me.

Fast forward to this February, aboard a flight from Saigon to Bangkok. 

The captain had just announced our final descent, and the flight crew had disappeared to buckle in for landing. I was reading my book when I became aware of angry voices two rows ahead. A man and woman, arguing.

The intensity and volume grew, the man becoming increasingly belligerent and foul-mouthed. Fellow passengers were exchanging worried glances, when suddenly there was the resounding sound of a slap. We were all stunned. I waited a moment and then called out, “That’s enough!”

The yelling stopped, and there was only the sound of the woman crying. I could just see the top of the man’s head from my seat, so when the plane docked I quickly moved into the aisle to get a better idea of the situation. 

He was white, blonde, about 5’10”, slightly built, in his late 30’s, early 40’s. She was a diminutive Thai woman. So tiny and slight it was easy to mistake her for a child. The bright angry slap was still a vivid red mark on her cheek. She kept repeating, “I don’t want to be with you anymore.” He violently pulled her out of her window seat, and roughly pushed her behind him. As he was packing up, he pointedly elbowed and banged into her.  

I looked around. My fellow passengers looked uneasy and embarrassed. Some of the men looked angry, but all remained seated. Nobody was getting involved. 

When the man reached up to get his bag from the overhead bin, I gently took her arm and told her, “Get behind me.” He turned with a snarl, and I loudly warned him, “Leave her alone. If you touch her again, I will call the police.” He stood glaring for what seemed like an eternity, but true to the cowardly nature of his kind, he backed down. He turned away, muttering to himself.  

I made sure to let lots of people fill the gap between us and the man before disembarking. The woman clung to me, crying. I released her into the custody of the cabin crew after explaining the situation, and said goodbye. 

It’s a long walk thru the Bangkok airport to Immigration. The adrenaline was still racing when I heard the sound of running footsteps behind me. Startled and apprehensive, I turned to see the young girl. “I’ve called my brother to come get me. Thank you for what you did.” She gave me the biggest hug, then turned back to the security people escorting her. 

And that was my moment of redemption.

Never stand back when you can make a difference. I’m not advocating throwing yourselves into dangerous situations, but get involved. Call the authorities, call attention to the situation. Doing nothing is the same as giving tacit approval for the behaviour. Violence

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About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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