There's nothing like being bitten and accused of assault to cap off a great day at FolkFest.
It's 10:30 pm, Alpha YaYa's music is still floating across the farm, and we and our tired children are with a group of folkfest leavers waiting for the shuttle. A very drunk, disoriented woman bumbles through us, muttering this and that, then leans against a car still talking to herself. Still we wait.
Then suddenly, somehow, the woman has keys and has managed to open the car door, is getting in, and the crowd all watches and wonders what to do. My brave wife knows - she defies the group bystander effect (the more people present, the less likely anyone will do anything to help) and leans against the door to keep it open as she asks the woman how much she's had to drink.
"Tourist bitch!" the woman shouts, trying to shut the door, trying to push my wife away. I put my sleepy child down on the long grass and move in to help. She's somehow managed to start the car, so I lean across to turn it off while Sarah tries to hold her down. CRUNCH, the woman's teeth bear down into Sarah's bare forearm.
Now I'm 3/4 into the car, holding her down by the shoulders and arms, careful not to get bitten or kicked, all with one arm while trying unsuccessfully to remove the car keys with the other. She's punching and trying to hurt me, swearing, then screaming that I'm assaulting her. I'm summoning my calmest, most compassionate energy to try to communicate that I'm just trying to get the keys to keep her safe, but her ears have drowned in the empty gin bottle on the passenger seat.
I do feel calm. I've done this before. Too many times, trying to get the keys from my dad. Borrowing the truck and not returning it until a binge is over. Convincing the doctor to have his license suspended. Letting the air out of all tires and putting a new steering wheel lock (which still didn't stop him). At least this time I don't have to maintain a relationship with this woman; don't have to weigh the relative importance of possibly damaging a father-son trust with possibly killing an innocent child.
For Sarah, that's the turning point, the motivation to step out of the paralyzed crowd and take action - innocent children. Our own children right with us; other children and families on those streets she was about to swerve onto. Mama Bear on board, and teeth or no teeth that woman isn't going to kill anyone's children on her watch.
At long last security arrives and we can attend to our own terrified, crying children. For days we'll be trying to explain the dangerous effects of alcohol, the importance of citizens stepping up to responsibility, the good fortune that we were never much in danger (unless she'd managed to get it into gear.)
They've just witnessed their first act of true violence - violence against their own parents and, from the drunk woman's perspective, perpetuated by their own parents. I hope it will be seared into their souls not as a moment of violence or fear, but as a necessary act of compassionate force, motivated and tempered by a love for children, for their grandfather, and for a sick woman who for at least one night was kept from harm.
PS - just to be really clear, I didn't show any bravery in supporting my wife and subduing a much-weaker person. It was my wife taking the risk by stepping out of the crowd to initiate the action. Here's what she wrote about it on her MamaRenew blog
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