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On Mass Transit Heartache

August 24th, 2008 by admin

On Mass Transit Heartache

I got on a northbound 1 from Sixth Avenue, the people piling on like shoot-fed cement. I shuffled over to the opposite side and reached my arm out for a bar.

“How rude can you be?”

There she was, eight inches below me, my twig-like arm a dividing line between her companion and she. ‘How rude can I be?’ Ruder than this for sure. See, intentions make rude and right then, I’m no more intentful than a herded cattle.

Now the hate that spins this world is made of such miscues, and I’m no more human than you. I turned around without speaking and shook my head slowly, not knowing what better to do.

“Hmm…can you believe that?”

“This might as well be the sixties.”

“Seems someone’s got the white slave master mentality.”

I knew I’d have to reply. I’m not a replying man, but I knew I’d have to reply. I didn’t even know what I was facing – or not facing at the moment as 18th street blew by. I hadn’t looked before but down to view my accuser, and then a quick turn from her eyes.

What to say in such a spot, a slave owner such as myself? What’s an 8-word response to a hate so complex in a battle you’ve already lost?

“Excuse me, you need to reexamine the situation.”

Don’t ask me for transcripts of what followed; the heat of the moment contains no real truths except in the looks of the eyes. Hers: belittling, demanding. His: furious, eager. Mine? Likely lost, indignant. Keen on expression yet short on telepathy.

He cursed, pointed, gray-white mustache like dry broom straw. He conjured some demon that lives in his chest, the one I’m excising right now. She spoke very little except to my etiquette, preaching the why’s and the hows.

And even then, angry and bitter, impotent and out of train stops, I knew this had nothing to do with me. I was an unwitting catalyst for feelings beyond my understanding. And if such temperaments are the consequence of hard earned knowledge, God keep me childlike in spirit.

I apologized – poorly in words, honest in eyes. I shook the woman’s hand and saw teacher’s patience, which burned and soothed at the same time. The man looked down and didn’t meet me again; he tucked all his god’s back inside.

I got off at Penn, fuming, violated, aware of rare emotion and talking to myself, like so many others slumped beneath the pay phones.

History tells us that mass transportation brings the worst of our failures to light. “The land of the free, the home of the brave” means nothing when thrown in a tight tube with people hanging on you, undesirables breathing on you, hazing up your sight with their smell you can taste it “Don’t touch me you hear me?!”

Control is the answer. Don’t sit here, be quiet, know your place, know your kind, know you’re not my kind, know my kind is kind only to like kind. Live your life by my terms and I’ll try to ignore your genetics.

Such thoughts were state-supported less than 50 years ago.

The ghosts of bus ride etiquette still lay our nation low.

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