This week is off to an auspicious start after a truly hellacious morning commute.

It was not hellacious in the usual way, however, which involves ill-timed trains and long-stalled red line rides.  No, today’s commute was unpleasant because of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, drag queen.

(That’s not what you were expecting, was it?  Me neither!)

For me, the first rule of morning commute is: you do not talk during  morning commute.  Most people respect this.  It is early, many of us are pre-coffee, and it’s just not nice to subject your fellow office drones to your cell phone calls or other chatter before 9am.  On the evening commute I’m a little more forgiving, but mornings are for silence and ipods.  Maybe magazines.

So the first bad sign was when I got on the train and there was a huge amount of noise- commotion, laughter, shouting, etc.- coming from the middle of the car.  I put on my ipod and hoped it would die down.

It didn’t.   I stole a glance in that direction and saw a huge, wild-eyed, still dressed up from Saturday night drag queen, sitting with a similarly-shouty friend.  They seemed to be enjoying the spectacle they were causing- the uncomfortable glances from the business-casual-clad crowd, the nervous shifting in seats from the people sitting around them.  “Whatever,” I thought.  “Annoying, but whatever.” I turned my ipod up a little.

Then, the noise got even louder, and when I glanced over again, things had taken a turn: drag queen was now standing up and leaning over to shout in the face of another passenger.  She was making fun of this poor woman’s hair, her makup, her professional dress.  She kept yelling and mocking and laughing, her face about an inch from the other passenger’s, as everyone sitting nearby looked around nervously.  It got worse and worse, the queen cursing and leaning in ever closer, making fun of this woman, baiting her, trying to get her to fight back.

And I was sitting way across the train car, but I briefly thought about intervening, yelling out “hey, knock it off” or something, ANYTHING, to divert the queen’s attention away from this poor woman.  But I didn’t.

It got me thinking, as these situations always do.  I know, there are lots of reasons not to intervene when presented with these sorts of circumstances: unpredictable people do unpredictable things, and you don’t want them turning their unpredictability toward you.  I get that.  But I also think that most of the time, people engaging in this sort of behavior are getting a cheap thrill out of lording power over some innocent bystander, but are really cowards underneath.  Many times, it seems, having someone call them out and tell them to stop is enough to get them to, you know, stop.

But no one did, and I got off the train before I saw the situation improve any, and now my morning is a little bit soured and I’m left wondering if I should have said something.

I have, in the past, inserted myself into situations like this, particularly when it’s kids/teenagers misbehaving.  (It must be the former teacher in me.  I should note: my friends and family do not love it when I do this, but sometimes it seems I cannot help myself.)  Other times, though, I keep my mouth shut.   I know that, realistically, I was sitting too far away to really do anything this morning, but I could have moved in their direction…  But maybe woman getting the haranguing, who was doing an admirable job of just ignoring it, wouldn’t even have wanted anyone to say anything, for fear it might have escalated things?

Sigh.  There are no good answers in situations like this, are there?  What about you?  Do you get involved when you see stuff like this?  Look studiously the other way?  Does it depend on the situation?