Cultural Ineptness

January 14, 2009

Coming out of the hospital where I had a blood draw, I noticed these two guys. One had on a jacket with a full skeleton picture on the back. The other had a funky hairstyle and jeans hanging around his butt. This was 10 a.m. and they couldn’t be more than 16 years old. I watched them go down the parking row toward my car. They were looking in the back and side windows of each and every vehicle.

There is no doubt what they were doing or what they were after. They looked back at me several times but didn’t stop what they were doing. I arrived at my car and the only compensation they made to my presenceĀ  was to shift over to the next row. As I watched from inside the car, I saw one of them get into an unlocked car. Immediately his head disappeared below the level of sight. If he wasn’t jacking a car then I haven’t seen a single episode of CSI.

So let me summarize: Two young men who should have been in school, dressed like car thieves, casing a parking lot, only one of them enters an unlocked car and disappears. Do you have any clue what they’re doing? So did I.

Yet I sat there wondering what I should do. The first thought – probably my best one – was to call the police and let them know what was going down. But here is what stopped me. These two men were part of a particular racial group. I was worried that if by some chance they were not doing anything illegal, my call would give the police opportunity to harrass them.

So instead of following my first instinct, I tracked down what I thought was a security guy. It turned out he was someone who ferried patients from their car to the building. I told him what I thought was happening and he just shrugged his shoulders non-committally. I left the parking lot and wondered why I didn’t go any further with my civic duty.

My cultural sensibility trumped my real sensibility. I wonder how often that happens? I ponder if I would have appreciated this kind of hesitation by someone else if my car had been stolen? Therefore I am doing soul-searching to see how many of these artifacts of political correctness are gumming up my common sense. I imagine there are others. Details may follow.

UPDATE: My sons both told me it is more likely they were stealing car radios and technology. I guess it is too hard to jack cars any more. Still it was a moral and ethical dilemma for me.


  1. Wow. I’d like to think I would know what to do in that situation…but I probably don’t

  2. Well, 9-1-1 is going to be my first call if I see this kind of thing again. But that is wonderful bravado after the fact.

  3. Give yourself some credit; I bet it was not so much their physical appearance that caught your attention. You picked up on their furtive looks and gestures. Your instincts went on alert. We do not go through each day expecting to witness criminality so there is a natural tendency to hesitate when we see it. Even some of the associates of Bernard Madoff have said they got funny feelings about the guy long before the scandal broke. A few brave souls tried to notify authorities but most probably shrugged it off. Be thankful it was not your stock broker who alerted your instincts.

  4. Oh, it was both their look and their actions. I knew what they were doing. I eventually did turn them in; but I don’t like the fact that I got caught up in a false hesitancy of political correctness in my head. And the Madoff people; now there is a group of stick-their-head-in-the-sand investors. How anyone can think they can keep making 50% profits every year legitimately is beyond me.

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