Received Sunday, August 19, 2007
This is a bit belated, but I went out of town and didn't get a chance to write about this until this week. I'm sorry if some of the environmental details are vague because I didn't write this all down at the time, but what I observed has been lingering with me, so I wanted to be sure to submit this.
About July 30, afternoon (about 3 - 5 pm), my friend and I were in Dolores Park, San Francisco. We watched a young girl, maybe between 5 and 8, run into the public restroom and then come running out with her pants not quite all the way around her rear. We initially giggled because we thought she was so excited to play that she couldn't be bothered to pull them up all the way; her face didn't register anything wrong at this point. We saw her run over to what may have been her mother, but could have been her nanny, who was on the playground watching an infant on the slide. The girl spoke to this woman (slim, long dark/black hair and a very nice brown autumn coat), and then went running back to the bathroom. The woman seemed disinterested. My friend remembered that the restroom had been out of toilet paper, and we watched the girl run around to the other side of the building. We then thought that she was going to go to the men's room (which we couldn't see), but then what we saw was jaw-dropping. She returned from the other side of the building with several large plant fronds (possibly from a palm, but they appeared softer and also wider), and then proceeded to stand outside but next to the bathroom door and wipe her rear end with the plant material.
She went through about 5 fronds, throwing them on the ground, and it seemed like she couldn't quite get comfortable. She looked extremely distressed. My friend and I wanted to go help, but we weren't sure what to do in this situation, as it is so delicate. The little girl appeared to have feces on her hands, which she would wipe on her pants. We also noticed her wiping both her back and front with the same frond. Mind you, we were at a slight distance away, and it felt a bit creepy that we watched all of this, but we were VERY concerned, even if we ultimately did nothing. We were a little shocked and caught off guard. She ran back and forth from the bathroom to the playground a few times, returning to try to wipe again.
The girl then ran back to the adult woman who she was with, who was so engrossed in watching the infant that she completely ignored the little girl. Her focus on the infant was actually very perplexing, and we watched them off and on for about 40 more minutes, and the woman never once seemed to look at the girl (especially did not seem to notice that she possibly had feces on her hands/pants).
The little girl had a turquoise t-shirt and red sweat-type pants. The infant had a pink outfit on (generic, I know). The little girl appeared (from our distance) to be perhaps Indian or Sri Lankan in ethnicity; the woman appeared more Asian, and was perhaps in her early-mid twenties (although, again, we were at a distance). There was nothing to suggest that this was or was not her mother, except that we have a hard time believing that a mother would be so cold and ignorant to the needs of her daughter. Again, the focus on the infant was striking, especially since the little girl was having such an obvious problem. We didn't hear the interaction at all, so we don't know what the verbal/subtle non-verbal exchange was, but the entire situation left us both feeling very sad.
If your readers have any thoughts on what we may have done differently or better, I'm all ears. We thought of going up to the woman and telling her directly what we saw, but something about her "vibe" made us hesitate. We worried that the little girl might get an infection (especially if she didn't wash her hands), but we also worried about how our version of the story might be interpreted by the nanny (my friend and I are both fairly obviously queer, and I know this isn't a big deal in SF, especially in Dolores Park, but I would hate to be accused of anything unsavory by bigoted or ignorant types).