Friday, April 15, 2011

Riot? Me?

by Meredith Cole

It's hard to imagine Lydia McKenzie starting a riot. She doesn't like to ride the subway because it forces her to stand too close to strangers. But starting a riot isn't always intentional.

Riots are frightening. A whole crowd surges and moves like a tsunami. People get trampled and killed. I've never been in a riot, but I have been in some really scary situations. I was once afraid that I and my infant son would get crushed on 5th Avenue in the Christmas crowd. People were pushing and shoving and there wasn't room for everyone. I had to work my way to the police barricades and demand to be let out. The cop didn't want to do it at first, so I used my best Jedi Master imitation  (and threatened to call 911). He opened up the barricade and I marched off through the cars on 5th Avenue still carrying my child and his stroller. I didn't start shaking until a few minutes later. Delayed shock.

Years ago, when my husband and I were living in Paris, we were riding the subway to a friend's house for dinner. Someone tossed a tear gas canister into our subway car as a joke. I can still remember vividly the helpless feeling of being blind as the crowd rushed toward us. I think of that often when I see footage of the police firing "harmless" tear gas at protestors. The oddest part of the story was that when we arrived at our dinner party full of our adventures, our French friends assured us that it happened all the time. Not cool.

Lydia isn't much of a rabble-rouser, to be honest. She wouldn't hesitate to interfere or speak up if she thought someone was getting picked on or abused. She has a strong sense of justice. But why would she want a crowd to get all riled up? I can only imagine that it might be in order to distract a killer so someone could get away. And in hipster Williamsburg it's a bit difficult to arouse passions in an ironic crowd. So what would get them excited? A big sale on Clove cigarettes? A free Brian Eno concert in McCarren Park? A Bud Lite to the first 100 people to enter a bar? Who knows. But hopefully she'll never have to start trouble on the street. Too often the trouble just finds her. And a riot does nothing to stop it.


TracyK said...

Haven't thought of clove cigs in a long time! Hard to imagine them as a riot starter - unless you were running away from the smell! I like your idea of starting a riot to get away from a killer - very Hitchcock!

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks Tracy! I was trying to think of something hipsters were passionate about and kind of drew a blank. I never smoked clove cigarettes, but I kind liked the smell.

TracyK said...

I made the mistake of smoking one once. It was over twenty years ago and the memory still makes me gag!

mollie bryan said...

From what I hear, hipsters are passionate about cupcakes. I hear they will stand in line for hours at certain bakeries. How does a cupcake riot sound? ;-)

Kelli Stanley said...

What a horrific Christmas shopping experience, Meredith--I hope that doesn't happen every single year. Reminds me of the rat experiments on overpopulation ... too many people, too small a space, something triggers a fear reaction, and boom, you've got a cattle stampede.

And as for the French tear gas ... maybe it doesn't bother the heavy smoker as much, but damn, that's nothing I can imagine putting up with in San Francisco.

Great post--made my want a pack of clove GUM! :)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Great post, Meredith!

Back in my gluten-eating days, she says nostalgically, I can see myself rioting over cupcakes. First, you overturn the cupcake truck. Then you start pelting people with cupcakes and smearing frosting on the police's riot shields.

Meredith Cole said...

Cupcakes... Mmmm. Yes, I think that they could cause a riot. Great suggestion, Mollie. And thanks for stopping by everybody! Hope you have a lovely (riot-free) weekend!

Ashley Williams said...

Nice post !! and thought provoking !!!