So the other day I was walking around in the 18th arrondissement and as I was crossing the street to get to the metro, I realized the was an argument going on in the middle of the intersection between a woman, straddling a bicycle, and an older man. Then the man shoved the woman in defiance.
Immediately, from all around, there were shouts from people scolding/threatening the man. The argument began to build from there as the woman tried to fight back. However several men jumped in to hold each back from the other. There was a lot more shouting but as I saw it was winding down I continued on to the metro. The argument started to die off to the sidewalk under the strain of the slowly encroaching traffic, trying to make it through the fray; someone picked up the bicycle the woman had left in the middle of the street to pursue the argument.
Maybe it's because I recently read The Death and Life of Great American Cities
over the Summer (finally, after half-assed glimpses from sections of the book for random architecture classes) that I found this event so interesting. This woman wasn't accompanied by anyone when the argument began and she and the man were more or less invisible in the crowd but though no one knew either of them, people were still watching and were obliged to step in once they thought a fight would break out. I don't know what the cause of the argument was but as soon as the man shoved the woman everyone was immediately on the side of the woman, regardless of what had happened before. However I do wonder also if this would have been the case if this had happened somewhere else in Paris as this part of the 18th is largely African and West Indian immigrants (and so was the woman; though the man was French). Anyway, I think Jane Jacobs
would have hoped so.