Daniel Handler coming to Pittsburgh, October 25

Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, author of 13 books in A Series of Unfortunate Events, uses the middle Baudelaire child, Klaus, as his spokesperson. Klaus talks about two kinds of people in the world, those who start fires, and those who try to put them out.
My husband, who has a knack for observing scenes that he retells almost in the form of poems or short stories, recounted 2 scenes that demonstrated both types of Handler’s people.
On the bus to work, he observed a 20-something, African-American woman sitting in the center of a seat meant for two. A middle-aged African-American man, somewhat down and out looking, stopped beside her. “Move over. You’re taking up two seats.”
“No.” That’s essentially what the woman said, adding a swear word or two.
“Driver,” the man called. “Can you make her move over? Or maybe call the police to make her move?”
The driver hit the gas and didn’t answer. Meanwhile, the other passengers either stared at the couple or turned away, probably feeling as worried as my husband. Bob clutched his briefcase, trying to think of a way to defuse the tension.
“Here you go,” a man behind him called. He, too, was African-American and middle-aged. “Right here’s a seat for you.”
The disheveled man looked from the empty seat to the one claimed by the young woman, then moved off to accept the vacant one. Relief seemed palpable among the passengers. The solution seemed obvious, simple, and yet no one, except the gentleman behind Bob came up with it. He’d put out the fire.
(An interesting addendum: several stops later, a Caucasian man entered the bus and paused by the woman. “May I sit here?” he asked.
For some reason, the woman moved over and relinquished a seat for him.
Nearby, a third African-American man caught Bob’s eye and just shook his head).
That evening at a bus stop my husband observed a Caucasian couple in their late thirties, early forties, waiting with their baby in a stroller. The mother talked on her cell and looked anywhere but at the father or baby. The father tapped his foot, waiting, dangling a cigarette right beside the stroller. He stared off into space while the cigarette inched ever closer to the child. Sure enough, the fierry end touched the baby’s cheek, and she screamed. The father bent and hushed her, saying, “She ran into my f—kin’ cigarette. I mean, she turned right into the f—kin’ thing.”
It happened so quickly, that just as my husband was registering the danger, the cigarette connected. Bob is the kind of person who would want to put out fires. But in the first case, he didn’t know how. In the second, he had no time.

About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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