I know, I know. We were liberal arts students in the ’90s. These things happened.
It was a boozy, amber night. I thought I knew everything. And I had to pee. I excused myself and went to the women’s restroom alone. I sat on a toilet. I started to urinate. I looked up. That’s when I saw a young man staring down at me, watching me pee.
Of course he bolted.
Of course I was shocked.
I returned to my dorm room. I told my friends. We were so drunk and couldn’t really make sense of anything. I decided to wait until the morning to report the incident.
But I woke up the next morning and wondered what the hell I would say. Some dude watched me pee. Hmm. Is that even criminal? I knew one thing, though. I wasn’t allowed to drink in the dorms. I broke a rule. And in the fog of a whiskey hangover, it’s not like I could remember the boy’s face.
So I didn’t report it.
I think it is very common to see something and say something when you are a minor character and the risks are low. Does the Indian guy look like a terrorist? Does that black kid look sketchy? Does it seem like your boss is having an affair with the secretary?
During my career in HR, all kinds of minor, stupid, speculative shit was reported to me for no reason at all.
“I just wanted to say something, Laurie.”
But when a colleague is depressed or a coworker is being abused, it is often difficult for even the nosiest of employees to intervene. What have you done when someone in your office says racist things? How have you intervened when a friend constantly berates his kids and his wife in normal conversation? What do you say to the guy who plays the victim and is angry with the world but never takes accountability for his actions?
If you see something, say something. But don’t be a busybody. Act with conviction and compassion. Be helpful. Be earnest. Be genuine.
And remember: when it feels the hardest to say something, you are doing the right thing.