There’s been a lot of talk lately about the problems facing downtown Spokane. From the STA Plaza to street kids, opinions are wide and varied on how to keep downtown safe and a place for everyone to enjoy.
Doug Clark wrote about his State of the Downtown Tour in a Sept. 15 column (“Downtown Spokane’s stark reality plain to see”). During this tour, he scooted past excrement and urine and talked to people from all walks of life including street kids who congregate by the Olive Garden restaurant.
And a Sunday Spokesman-Review article, “Finding answers to sullied image,” detailed how, despite what people think, crime in downtown has dropped due to increased police presence.
I’m glad – really glad – crime has dropped. I’ve worked downtown since 1986. I like downtown; I always have. The stories of vagabonds and street kids aimlessly roaming the streets are somewhat exaggerated and statistically, it appears the police are getting a handle on crime.
But there are other things that continually play out right before my eyes and add to the puzzle of why downtown has a sore spot on the getting better meter. Rudeness, sense of entitlement and arrogance plague the general population milling around not only the STA Plaza, but also River Park Square and points beyond.
Recently I was outside the STA Plaza waiting for the bus along with several others. The folks on the 173 VTC always line up. It’s our thing. As one rider said to me, “We’re civilized bus riders.”
Standing by the curb also waiting for the bus were two young adult men. When the bus pulled up, these two sauntered to the line and cut in front of a passenger. The passenger reprimanded the two saying they shouldn’t cut in front of people and to get in line. The boys mocked her. “Who do you think you are? We can do whatever we want!”
There was a bit of jockeying for position while everyone in line looked away. Once on the bus, they began chiding her. “Oh, wow, look how crowded it is! Oooo…the 173 lines up!” Arrogant laughter permeated the air.
The bus left. Dumb and dumber were occupying the back of the bus where the women they ridiculed and I were also seated. It was gnawing at me: I was angry two boys could intimidate a line of people; that fear of gangs or who knows what silences the masses; I felt sorry for the woman who had the guts to speak up. I leaned over and said, in a loud voice, “Ma’am, you did the right thing. Rudeness knows no boundaries.” I wanted them to hear me and they did.
Two days later, another example:
In line for the bus once again, an older woman in a wheelchair came barreling toward the bus as people were getting on. She zipped her wheelchair in front of a passenger almost running into her and demanded the bus driver put the ramp down so she could board. The driver complied.
Two incidences, two age groups, yet both displayed rude behavior and were rewarded. The STA drivers did nothing.
That’s my take on some of the problems with downtown. Sense of entitlement dictates that child mothers and fathers can drag their babies to the STA Plaza to smoke and awe the passers-by with rough language. Arrogant street kids in jammies and slippers are endured. There exists a woeful lack of respect in young and old alike, and when coupled with fears of retaliation that keeps us silent, the ugly gets uglier.
Rudeness knows no boundaries and, unfortunately, rudeness, sense of entitlement and downright arrogance are not against the law.
But it sure hurts all of us.