Wednesday, December 20, 2006

good guys

I was looking for my gray spandex suit. In my mind, I was opening my shirt to reveal a barrel chest with a black bat logo, while trying to remember whether or not Alfred had my cape dry-cleaned.

No, I’m not Batman. But for a brief seconds I wished I had superhero chops, when I witnessed a low-life snatching some lady’s necklace at the very moment we drove up to park at a McDonald’s along EDSA.

I ran right out only in time to catch the horrified indignation of the victim. Then telling myself I could have done something if only I’d been there sooner if only I didn’t have a plane to catch, if only my wife didn’t keep nagging me to not get involved, if only… Yeah, right. The list just goes on.

Then when the smoke in my head dies down, the real reasons come popping out like fresh bubblewrap. I would’ve done something, but I know the crook’s probably from around this neighborhood, and knows every nook and cranny like the proverbial back of his hand. And I think he probably has back-up lurking around somewhere with harmful thoughts and even more harmful things. They usually do. And it’s all probably futile to get him in jail anyway even if we do grab him, since the rumors of police protection on these crooks are so rampant that they’re probably true.

Again, the list goes on…

And as the reasons and excuses stream through my head, the only constant is the feeling of helplessness and futility that I can’t shake. As I bite into my pie and sip my soda, my wife, the driver and I shared stories about other petty crimes that have happened before our eyes. Since talking about similar incidents seemed to be therapeutic, and that reminding ourselves of the commonness of petty crimes seems to absolve us of our indifference.

* * * * * * *

I grew up seeing my elders pulling over the streets and helping push stalled cars. I remember staring out the windows smiling as I watched my uncle or father dutifully helping out. Back then, these actions were called “bayanihan”, and I grew up thinking that I would become a helpful citizen, too someday.

Fast forward to someday. Today.

Several times, my wife and I would find some unfortunate soul with a stalled car somewhere pushing his vehicle all by his lonesome. I’ve helped such people in the past, when there was heavy traffic and no nasty surprises could be done without dozens of other seeing it.

I’m tempted to pull over like my uncles and dad did back then. To safely leave my wife in the car like I was way, way back, and then there it is. It isn’t safe anymore. Too many crooks have used the whole stalled car routine, only to rob, maim, kill or rape some idiot Samaritan, who happens to stop over. I couldn’t risk my family by pulling over and playing the good guy. Circumstances have dictated that good guys suffer collateral damage. I’ve always fancied myself among the good guys, but am I still? And how many more are there like me in this country, who have gotten tired of even considering to pull over for fear of falling victim to a ruse? A lot, I’d wager.

* * * * * * *

Ever hear the question: “where are all the good guys when you need them?”?

Here’s the answer: They just passed by with their wife and kids. Waiting for the time they can pull over without having to worry about having a weapon in their faces all because they wanted to help out.

When do you think that’s going to be?