Monday, July 20, 2009

The Mean Metro Man 6/20/09

The Mean Metro Man 

70F and fair--been having thunder storms in the PM but not today
wind calm
High broken clouds

Well, we finally hit a milestone of sorts; being openly threatened by someone. A threat through a translator looses much of its punch, but afterward I felt the full impact of it and it made me mad.

This actually happened over a month ago and I finally decided to write about it. It happened around 9 or so at night as we headed home from the branch building at Zoloni Cupola where the Novosibirsk first and second branches meet. We were returning from a training seminar put on by a senior elder from Moscow who was touring the three Districts in our mission, training auditors in preparation for the August semi-annual branch and district audits. We were traveling with him and his wife, Cindy and I, and the two office elders.

As we got on the Metro in the middle of the first car, I glanced around at the people already in the car and noticed a large, mustached man in his early 40's at the front end of the car staring at us. I'm used to this my now because commonly people are trying to read our name tags and are just curious, but this guy was more than just curious.

I made a point of avoiding eye contact, much the same way as you do with a stray dog, and just conversed with the other couple that was with us. Elder Lynch was next to me, Elder Petersen was on the other side of our companions, and the four senior missionaries where standing in the middle of the car, holding on to the rails. As we proceeded to the first of three stops before ours, this man began to make his way toward us from the front of the car.

As we left that station he leaned towards Elder Lynch and softly mumbled something to him that made his eyes open just a little. I asked what he said and Elder Lynch said that the guy was just drunk. At that the guy whispered something else that opened Elder Lynch's eyes a little more. To my inquiry he said that the man said that we had to get off the train or there was going to be trouble. My first response was to take this guy down before he had a chance to make good on his threat, with the help of 200 lb Elder Petersen of course, but our training is to avoid any conflict and decided to ignore him for the time being.

As we lost and gained passengers at the Plosha Lenina station, the one just before ours, the man leaned forward again and whispered his threat to Elder Lynch again who by this time was getting visibly nervous. I told Elder Lynch to turn away from him and talk to me. As we made our way to the Octobraskaya Station the man continued to glare at us but didn't make a move on us. Finally the car stopped, we all left the train, and it left the station with the Mean Metro Man aboard.

As I pondered the event over the next couple of days, I decided on a different strategy if confronted in a confined space again. We are instructed to get away from any threat if possible and I know that is the right action. However, when confronted in a place you can't leave, I am considering a different strategy, but am still mulling.

First, it is obvious that the Mean Metro Man didn't want others around to hear his threat. He whispered it to Elder Lynch, all 140 lbs of him, and waited to see some reaction. We didn't react at all and that confused him; good strategy. However, I think another is equally effective. I would have the elder translate, at the top of his lungs, something like the following.

"Sir, we don't know you. We don't know why you are threatening to harm us and we think you should just go about your business and leave us alone." If that doesn't do it, we might escalate the confrontation to the following, "Ladies and gentlemen, this man is threatening to harm us. We do not know him and do not know why he hates us, but please understand, when the police drag his lifeless body off this train, we have nothing against him and wanted nothing more than to be left alone. We hope that some of you will stay around and give your statement to the police."

The reason for this dialog relates to my prior blog. People who whisper threats are powerless people who want to keep their aggression under-cover, much like the old enforcers did in years gone by. They are trying to scare and threaten in their powerlessness as a grab for some particle of power over a perceived weaker person. They don't want to be in the light. They do their work in secret, in the dark, under their breath, away from public scrutiny. The best counter to darkness is light and bringing this behavior into the public eye seems right now to be the best way to diffuse it. Maybe I'm wrong, but it is my thinking right now.

As missionaries, we must avoid conflict, even with powerless bullies, and we must even run if necessary to avoid a problem. However, when you are trapped and have no route of escape, we have to do something to disarm the offender. This will take more thought; I'm considering.

What a country


Andrea S said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrea S said...

Reminds me of an expreience on my mission. My comp and I were on the u-bahn when a guy came up and grabbed my name tag. I politely walked over and asked the man to return it but got no response. Some kind passengers helped me talk to the conductor who then forced the man to give me back my name tag. Not only did I get my name tag back but about 10 other missionary name tags. Apparently this guy just liked to take name tags and run off. HaHaHa. The elders were quite suprised when I showed up to district meeting with all their name tags. Oh the life of a missionary. Wouldn't be much of a mission without a few threats or insults either crazy, drunk, or powerless people.

Trisha said...

Glad the Lord is watching out for you all. Maybe another option could be to start sharing your testimony it is the most powerful thing that you have and no one can fight that.

Shannon Simmons said...

Oh the element of power! You and I have had many chats about it. Certainly what is done in the dark is of the dark. Corrupt Power is threatened by the light which is why the metro man acted that way. I think you did the right thing- especially since he was drunk. Keep protecting and illuminating!

Mom/Cindy said...

We've seen the "mean metro man" several times. I REALLY don't like it when he yells at me!!!! This poor guy needs more to do. I'm still working on loving him.