Dumbest move on my NY trip? Going without a map. I mean, I love exploring a city by just going where my feet take me, but if you want to go somewhere specific a map is definitely a useful tool.
One of those places I wanted to go to was Dizzy’s Diner on 9th Street. I was told I would be able to get some mighty good breakfast there. It was only a couple of subway stops from where I was staying, so normally I would have walked had I had a map, but now I didn’t…
And that’s how I ended up in the next encounter…
Let me first say that there is a way to do things, and I’m not convinced I handled the situation in the best possible way.On the other hand I did something, where before I would have just felt bad.
I got on the subway and since it was after the morning rush there were some spots to sit. I randomly picked one.
On the opposite side of the aisle were a mother and a daughter. Their clothes clearly showed that they were religious people. They were both deeply concentrated on reading their holy books.
We got to the next stop and a man got on. He too went to sit on the opposite side of the aisle, in an angle from the mother and daughter.
If you know the NY subway system, you know that there isn’t a lot of personal space. It wasn’t exactly the man’s choice to be that close. Clearly the mom still thought the man was sitting too close to them. While looking at him she asked the daughter to move up a spot so she could get away from the man.
At first I was surprised. What had just happened? The man did not look uncared for, nor did he smell bad. I saw no reason for the woman to want to move away from this man.
Until I saw the look on the man’s face; a look of intense hurt. He shook his head. He looked at them and then looked at me. He shook his head again and looked away, out of the window.
Do I need to point out to you that the man was black?
I felt disgusted by what just happened, but normally I would have also felt too self-conscious to do something. I would have quickly looked away and minded my own business hoping someone else would stand up for this man. But the man had looked at me. Not at the person next to me; at me.
I got up, crossed the aisle and sat down next to the man loudly stating that I DID want to sit next to him. To spite the mother and daughter I wasn’t going to be quiet about what I had just witnessed.
Yes, I stood up for this man, but I did it in a way that would make the mother and daughter feel bad. And that’s where I feel I went about it in the wrong way. It’s not with hatred that we change people’s vision of the world.
Yet the man looked at me and smiled. He told me he was tired of fighting this battle and that he had given up on standing up for himself. Looking at the mother and daughter he told me that he used to be a man of the Bible himself, but that he was no longer able to read it more than once or twice a week.
I felt his sadness when he told me this. It was like him telling me he could no longer believe, because the real world kept showing him that it wasn’t ever going to be like in the Bible.
I had to admit to him that I don’t know the Bible or any other holy book from the beginning till the end, but that I was pretty sure that in none of them does it say that one person is meant to treat another person like a lesser human being.
I told him that instead I was pretty sure that life was meant to be the way he and I were living it in that particular moment: Two people freely exchanging a moment in time, a moment that for us didn’t last any longer than 3 subway stops.
And that’s how I made it to breakfast.