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Recently, I was on a trip to a town that I didn’t know well. I play Pokemon GO, which has “raids,” a sort of social feature that requires people to gather in one place to coordinate in-game activities. I was out doing some raids, using a chat app to find out where they would be. Since I’m gregarious and felt safe, I asked some of the people—an adult woman and her father—I met at the raid whether I might get a ride to the next raid, and they agreed. I’ve done this a lot before without any issues—it seems to be pretty common in the Pokemon GO community, where not everyone has a car to get between raids.

While I was riding with them, though, I began to feel very uncomfortable. I’m not the most socially perceptive of people, but the father seemed to me to be acting in an extremely angry, critical, and maybe even abusive manner.

He was constantly angrily criticizing his daughter for the littlest things, even blaming her for following the directions on Google Maps, or not catching a Pokemon for him, and he always tried to make it seem like it was her fault. She wasn’t being at all confrontational or doing really anything, so far as I could tell.

He also said things like “Don’t make me curse at you” (and it sounded like a genuine threat, not a joke) and “Why are you making me angry?”. And all this with a stranger in the car!

I felt so uncomfortable that I asked them to drop me off early, but even then I was second-guessing my decision.

What was the right strategy? Should I have done what I did, and just tried to get away from that situation as quickly as possible? Should I have said something, and if so, how?

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    How much did you see the interactions at place you initially met them? Were they not interacting there or was the interaction more genial outside the car? – threetimes Aug 27 '17 at 6:36
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    @threetimes - The father seemed less on edge outside the car. – Obie 2.0 Aug 27 '17 at 7:03
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    @threetimes - But that could just be (a) a failure of perception on my part or (b) because they were focused on doing the Pokemon GO raid. – Obie 2.0 Aug 27 '17 at 7:10
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    If it were definitely abusive, the legal (off topic) question would be whether it makes sense to report it to the police. – NotThatGuy Aug 27 '17 at 12:39
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    Well, your story still sounds better than the father and kid I met during a raid. The father failed to catch the legendary afterwards, and kept yelling at his son that he was annoying and had to walk home alone if he ever talked again during raids again. Fun family game it is :p – Hans Janssen Sep 13 '17 at 15:50
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The interactions between family members carry a lifetime of history and context. I am not trying to condone yelling or rudeness as a solution for anything. But what you observed was something that quite likely can be misunderstood because you don't have the context in which to truly understand it.

Whenever I am near a married couple argue for whatever reason, as long as there is no evidence of something illegal about to ensue, I have a tendency to simply give them their privacy. I have seen cases where people tried to help, and it just backfired.

The woman is an adult. She appeared to be in no immediate danger to her safety. I think you did the right thing to simply give them their privacy so that they can sort out their family matters without an audience.

I think you did the right thing to not intercede and to get out of their presence sooner rather than later. I also hope you were not too put out because I get the impression that you had some walking ahead of you.

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    I agree…I am not sure that he was being abusive. As I said, I’m not so socially aware: it’s impossible to know context. But when someone says that another person is “making” them curse at them or do some other unpleasant…that sort of thing, telling someone that they “made you” do or say something unpleasant, definitely makes me think of someone with an abusive personality. The way he would berate her for absolutely nothing (she was being if anything too accommodating) also played into the impression I got. But I’m glad you think I made the right decision…I wasn’t sure. – Obie 2.0 Aug 27 '17 at 7:06
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    +1 and very often, people, in their home or car, feel like they can behave their way, because it's a private property. That's why maybe the father waited for them to be in the car to behave like he did, no matter that you were here too? Not in a public space was enough for him? – OldPadawan Aug 27 '17 at 7:23
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I think you are right in assessing the way this sounds, would come off as abusive. That said, I am not sure what else you could have done.

One thing I will say, as a perspective you may not consider as it's not an obvious one. My father is a rude rude man at times. It is very off-putting to others and to myself. I had a lot of baggage with him to overcome in my adult life. But there is a legitimate reason. He is not who he used to be. I never knew him the way he was. Sadly, when I was an infant, my father suffered a frontal lobe injury. As such, it has damaged his filter. He can go from being a lot of fun one moment to downright mean in no time. He is most inclined in his aggressive speech to those he is closest to and the worst trigger is frustration and car driving is a bad one. That in particular really irks me as he could allow someone else to drive, but in that case, then he is the worst "backseat driver" you have ever seen. He isn't actually going to do anything to anyone. I've never seen him flip off other cars or drive abusively, but his behavior in the car while driving is highly unpleasant, such that my mother often rides separately. He knows he is like this. He later often will feel bad about the way he acted, but someone who doesn't know us might think he is a horrible person. Sometimes he deserves that impression. That said, knowing how he acts I wouldn't say we could let someone ride with us nor ride with him. I do have siblings that find this less stressful though, so maybe they would. I would hope they would warn someone though. Perhaps though too if my dad was having a great day, I might not think he would act off. On a bad day he can act off even for seemingly no reason. He once called me a name at one of my kid's birthday parties because I didn't realize he was in the bathroom and we sang while he was gone. I asked him to leave. I love him, but he shouldn't come around my kids on a bad day. I was stuck living that every day growing up. I won't make my kids be around it.

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Stay away from others' family matters.

You did the right thing by getting off early. From what I read, there doesn't appear to be any real danger of physical violence. It's only a father yelling at his daughter, which may be quite normal in their family. I'm not saying it's objectively a good thing to yell at a daughter, but what I'm saying is that it may be normal to them.

It would not be welcomed if you had joined in their conversation with your own opinions. There is nothing you can do about it, other than stay away, in this case.

Even if one of them had, by any chance, pulled you into their discussion, hoping that you pick their side, it would be wise to stay neutral and try to be as diplomatic as possible.

You don't know them well enough to join in their personal conversation. They don't know you well enough to keep you as an audience. So the best thing would be to leave them alone before they feel like they have to force you out.

I have had similar experiences where I'm caught in the middle of some family or couple's arguments. It is really awkward. I try and stay quiet or get away as subtly as possible.

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On a similar tone to other answers, I would like to emphasize that cultural differences sometimes play a big role in this. Both my wife and I grew up in Latin America, and our style of discussion usually worries people in North America. We have gotten used to clarify to people, when they look worried about our "fighting", that we are actually talking Philosophy or a similarly abstract topic.

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I'm going to try and provide a contrast to the other very useful answers that are already here.

More information is better information.

In your answer, you explain a situation that made you feel uncomfortable, and it seems based on your tone you are somewhat concerned over whether the decision you made was the correct one. This depends a great deal on what your goal here was. From a self-serving perspective, leaving this uncomfortable environment immediately was a good way to bring you out of that situation. For a different question, this could very well have been the answer.

The fact that you are questioning this decision, however, suggests to me that you may be having other concerns, likely of an ethical nature. In that regard, my suggestion for future situations is as follows:

  • Remain in the uncomfortable situation as long as you yourself are not feeling attacked
  • Try to calmly surveil the situation. Imagine yourself as simply an observer trying to better understand what's happening
  • When you have enough information to make a confident decision, you can more accurately decide what the best course of action would be

This is, in my opinion, an ethical way to minimize present and future physical and mental risk for all parties involved. By remaining present, social standards potentially prevent the situation from escalating dangerously. By collecting evidence, you are able to make a more informed decision, ranging from (if things get much worse) calling the police after getting yourself to a safe area to laughing off the situation because you simply misunderstood a normal social (for them) family dynamic.

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