Thursday, September 13, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
I know I'm an idiot. But am I racist idiot? That is the question.
Worked late today, had an article due and a dirty catbox waiting for me when I got home. Just thinking about it made me feel hopeless and tired.
I'm at the turnstiles when I hear the train approaching. Rock! I swipe my card. Insufficient fare. Fuck.
I walk toward the machine. Oh well. At least I'll get to read some of my book. It's a memoir by a blind guy and relatively funny. Not amazing funny, but good enough to take my mind off what's going on at work right now.
"Miss? Miss? I'll swipe you."
Out of the corner of my eye I see a black man hanging around by the turnstile.
Fuck that, I thought. Another homeless dude scammer.
I move forward with my plan to buy a Metrocard.
"Miss? Miss! Come here. I'll swipe you."
I take a better look. Huh. He doesn't seem that homeless. He's my age, kind of cute. Maybe he's like my friend Marc, the super gentlemen-type. Perhaps he's trying to pick me up.
Train's still coming and it's time to make a decision: Buy a Metrocard and wait another 20 minutes to a half hour when I'm in no mood to do so or believe in humanity and accept the swipe.
I accept the swipe.
"Thank you very much," I say as I push through the turnstile. I glance down at the fare reader. Unlimited ride.
***For anyone not from New York, there's a common scam on the subway. Con artists beg, borrow, or steal unlimited ride Metrocards, which let you get on the subway as many times as you want for a set time period. They then sell the swipes to people getting on the subway or offer to swipe them through and then start asking for money. If you buy a 7 day unlimited for $24 bucks and manage to sell 12 rides in one day, anything you make on top of that is gravy. It's a tough way to make money, since 99% of people know the scam and will turn you down, but to the persistent and desperate it's well worth it.***
Subway Guy says, "That'll be two dollars." He's all speedy, plucky and efficient, like a 1950's soda jerk.
Fuck you, you lying asshole. I didn't even want your shitty old ride. You asked me three times to take it, didn't say anything about paying you back and now you're trying to charge me?
I give money to homeless people all the time. I also donate online and volunteer. I'm all for handouts, but being tricked like that pisses me off.
I ignore him and keep walking.
"Miss! Miss! You owe me $2 dollars."
OWE you? I'm sorry, did we enter into some kind of contract or something?
"Miss! Miss! Get back here and pay me my $2 dollars."
"No. You're a scammer!" I yell as I'm descending the stairs.
The train arrives. I get on.
Oh shit. Are you serious? Subway Guy is running down the steps. He dives into the car just as the doors close.
"GIVE ME MY TWO DOLLARS BITCH!"
He's all up in my face.
I try to move to the other end of the car.
I change direction and move to a different, more populated area.
He follows once more.
"YOU OWE ME! YOU TOOK MY SWIPE AND NOW YOU OWE ME TWO DOLLARS!"
"Leave me alone!" I say, over and over. I sound like a 1990's self defense video.
He uses the overhead bar for support as he leans over and puts his face inches from mine. He has nice skin, coffee with cream-colored eyes and large pores.
"I TRIED TO HELP YOU! I TRIED TO DO SOMETHING NICE!"
"No you didn't," I say. "You lied."
But did he? The whole time he's yelling I'm studying his appearance. His hair, his nails, his backpack, his clothes.
What if he's NOT a con artist? What if he's NOT a scammer? What if he really did expect to be paid back and I'm an asshole for assuming he's not some rude cheapskate and instead a thief and a hobo?
"I OUGHT TO FUCKING SMACK YOU, YOU LITTLE BITCH. I SHOULD SMACK YOU RIGHT HERE. SOMEDAY SOMEONE'S GOING TO SMACK YOU AND YOUR MAMA."
"If you don't leave me alone right now I'm going to call the police."
And I'm sure the police would have been a big help, were I able to get a signal on my cell phone, somehow convince the conductor to make the train stop moving and convince New York's Finest to stop going through people's purses in search of dirty bombs and Al-Qaeda pamphlets and locate me underground.
Subway Guy continues yelling and bitching. I do my best not to engage but it's hard.
"I OUGHT TO SMACK YOU BITCH!"
Holy mozzarella sticks, did you really just say that? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU ERIN? DO YOU WANT TO GET KILLED?
Luckily, Subway Guy and God cut me a break and he gets off at the next stop.
"Good for you!" a 50-something man with a guitar case tells me, giving me a thumbs up.
Thanks, asshole. Where were you when I had a 6'2 ball of rage swinging his fists near my nose? And it wasn't just him - the entire time this was going on no one said anything or tried to help me.
Before I moved to New York I'd always hear those stories about how people get stabbed to death on the street and regard them with suspicion. Now I realize they're all true.
Not that New Yorkers are a rude people. They're actually very nice. Carry a heavy package and 10 people will try to hold the door. Drop a quarter and you have a good chance of bumping heads with someone as they bend over and help you pick it up.
They only get selfish and self-interested when it comes to life-threatening situations. I don't totally understand, but I can't say I blame them.
Anyway, I'm home now and my brain is still churning. I keep replaying the scenario and wondering if I acted appropriately. Should I have paid him the $2 dollars? Did I cause someone to snap who's otherwise very normal? Did he just get cheated on by his girlfriend or fired from his job?
Or was he a piece of shit pissed because someone beat him at his own game?
I honestly don't know.
Posted by Erin Bradley at 8:45 PM