The incident of a couple of nights ago left me a little shaken. Especially since I've never been abused while alone (but a couple of times when with small groups of Indian friends). I will add that Seattle in particular is largely extremely liberal, and very, very tolerant. And most Americans are largely very friendly, and tolerant. A couple of freaks does not a country make.
However, this reminded me of an incident that happend to four of my very good Indian friends here. When they told me what had happened, I was more scared than I have ever been.
Late last summer, these four (who are/were PhD students here at the University of Washington) decided to go on a small road trip and explore a bit of Eastern Washington, and Idaho. Thorougly enjoying the spectacular scenery of mountains, canyons and rivers, they reach the heart of Idaho, and are near this tiny town of Twin Falls, Idaho (population probably 30000). This is miles from the nearest city (if you can call it that), Boyse, and is really in the midst of vast, empty, beautiful landscape. The claim to fame of the town are the twin waterfalls that fall over cliffs just outside the town. My friends pull over at a scenic view point, to admire the view. One of them is the best photographer I know, and he busily tries to get the best angles of the sunset over a bridge spanning the small canyon. Meanwhile, a car with an elderly white couple in it starts pulling into the view point, suddenly stops, and then rapidly reverses and is drives off.
My friends, satisfied with their excellent photography, move on to the visitor center. There they find out that the river is bone dry, and there isn't even a trickle of water in the waterfall. So they decide to head off and explore some nearby cliffs. They hop into their car, and start munching some Doritos (yuck!). As they are about to start their car, suddenly a couple of police cars pull up, sirens blazing, and a cop announces over his loudspeaker that they need to stay where they are, with their hands visible. My friend freezes with the Dorito half way into his mouth. The cop walks up, with another standing behind as "back up". My friends are questioned. "Where are you from", "What are you doing here", "Are you carrying any firearms"!
Apparently, some couple had called the cops, and said that they had seen some Arabs standing near the bridge taking pictures, and had overheard them talking of blowing up the bridge! Yes, in Twin Falls, Idaho, of all places! I can only imagine how dumbstruck my friends must have been when they heard this.
The cop took their IDs, left for a few minutes, and came back after having verified that they were indeed PhD students of impeccable standing at the UW. He was very polite, and apologized for the trouble caused. The cops pulled out, and these four started the car and drove off. They found four other police cars parked at strategic points, in case they tried to "get away".
They didn't stop driving until they reached Seattle, 500 miles away.