Some days on Sacramento's light rail system, I see interactions that restore my faith in human nature. Other days, I see incidents that make me wonder about the fate of civilization. On Monday, just before dusk at a light rail station near my office, it was the latter.
Some teenagers had found a six-pack of empty beer bottles. One of the young women proceeded to lob three of the bottles at another young woman nearby. These landed in bushes, so they didn't break. Okay, nothing major. Another teen crossed the tracks, and not speaking a word, took a bottle and returned to his side of the platform. What was he up to? He put the bottle in the pocket of his baggy pants and sat. A few minutes later, he walked to the center of the tracks and tossed the bottle high in the air. It shattered about 50 feet away.
Two bottles were still left in the six-pack. Three more teens arrived at the station, and as they passed the young woman flung a bottle at their feet. It shattered; nobody reacted. One bottle left. The young woman rolled it under her foot until it broke.
The train came, we all got on and the broken glass was left behind.
What's this about? It's not about littering. It's not about being playful or funny. It's about showing in a very public way that you don't care, that you want to leave people guessing about whether they should feel threatened. It's about swagger.
I can just see people shaking their heads and saying, "See, this is why people won't ride light rail." But it's more than that. Something's wrong when young people show such little respect for their surroundings and each other. How do you turn that around?