Having actually forgotten what prompt this was for, it might be one of these, or a sum of them all.
MONDAY, 18TH MARCH
B: Write about a chance meeting that has stayed with you ever since.
WEDNESDAY, 20TH MARCH
B: Write about a time when your preconceived notion or opinion (about a place, person, thing, etc.) turned out to be wrong. What did it take to change your mind?
SATURDAY, 16TH MARCH
A: Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation: from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of a car on a family road trip.
It was probably that last one, and I was going to rant about taking the subway.
You know what, maybe for another time. As hilarious as my eye-rolling throat-punch resistanc-ing experiences with the humans can be, it dwells on the negative.
When ‘coming up for air’ (my way of saying “leaving the subway station”) it’s the home stretch. Well, “work stretch”, which in no way sounds appealing, unless you’re the lead photographer for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, in which case there is no train or subway station that will leave you off at the beach of a tropical paradise.
Anyway, during the morning at just about every train station you’ll come across the AMNY or Metro newspapers. They are free and have just enough information to digest in a one way trip, and with various puzzles like Ken Ken, Soduku and the Crosswords, can keep you occupied on a round trip, so you don’t have to stand around reading dopey subway ads.
At some stations you will not just have the pile of papers, but a person in a company vest with an armful, handing them out. Like most handouts, people ignore or walk around them. Some vendors are aggressive, holding it out so the paper brushes against your chest or arm as you walk by them, perhaps on the off chance that you are wearing a duck tape tie or scarf (sticky side out). They don’t say a word to you or even look at you.
Some however, put that little something extra. Instead of just handing it out, they will pitch the paper’s headlines, much like the wily little rapscallions in old movies you think did that, but likely didn’t (they usually didn’t sing and dance either).
Then there is Rodney.
Rodney handed out the AMNY at one of the train stops I would sometimes head out from. He stood inside the station, usually during cold or wet weather. He always greeted everyone with a smile and ‘Good Morning!”, almost individually even when there were crowds. And that little effort got reactions. No one pushed past, some people would take it, or say politely, “No, thank you.”
“Ok, well you have a blessed/good day.” (You got that answer in either case).
So I took a paper a couple times. Then one day, he gave a glance of recognition as I approached.
“Hey there he is! How are you my friend?!”
Through the weeks I would stop and talk to him, he was accommodating, but still would have to pause the conversation for other greetings (who would take that as an affront?!). Turns out Rodney is a Veteran, and had been recently applying for his vendor license to get his own food or merchandise cart/stand. He was also looking for Section 8 housing. In other words, Rodney isn’t just a guy who hands out papers; he is a man working hard for a better life. I respect him greatly for that, and followed up with him on what was new and hoping for the best.
He did get the vendor’s license, so the next steps would be soon after. He didn’t get the housing initially, but he didn’t care for the terms they were setting. Good for him – everyone should have a little pride. During the summer 2012, he DID get the next housing offer.
“Oh it’s great! An apartment in the Far Rockaways. When I am done here and everything else in the afternoons, I go home and know that I am just steps from the beach.” Brilliant! I couldn’t be happier for him.
Rodney’s ‘station’ changed to one close by the other one (“they needed someone more dependable for a busier station”, he told me), and though I would go out of my way, I didn’t stop down his way a lot. Still he’d remember me every time, and ask how my weekend was or what not. Every time I walked past, I expected Rodney to give me some good news, that this gig was up and he was moving to something better. Hell, even if he just disappeared, I would have assumed the same thing, on his terms, and maybe he just didn’t tell anyone. It would be good, either way.
Then on October 2012, there was Hurricane Sandy. Locals may know, others might now, that Sandy wiped out Far Rockaway badly, particularly apartment buildings near the beach. Some co-workers of mine were displaced for several months, and even when they returned for short periods to their homes to pick up personal/valuables (which were not looted or destroyed) getting back into their daily routine has been a long, rough road.
Knowing that the AMNY gig is one where workers can be easily replaced, and that his living situation was surely uprooted, I have not seen Rodney since the Thursday before Sandy came upon us. This was not the way I envisioned it, (to say nothing of what HE must still be going through).
Rodney’s stations have since been taken by a rotation of others, sometimes it’s just that metal news tray that gets soggy when it rains or has papers flying around during the windy days.
I’ve re-learned a few things from this.
Don’t take a sincere greeting or the smallest friendship for granted; keep them close. Say “Thank You” and “You’re Welcome”, and mean it. Make it a point that you will stand out to some person as the one who shifted a bad day in a good direction, and let people know they are respected and appreciated for whatever interaction you have.