Snowy and cold, I boarded a Metro North Train with four grocery bags. Two in each hand. They’re freezing, heavy, and my fingers are about to fall off. After a quick scan for an empty seat, floors wet, with newspaper slush all over the place, I see one – a three ‘seater’ and sit right on the aisle, where I’m being slapped with passing jackets, purses and stuff that people are carrying as they try to settle in. A deep sigh of relief, I sit back into my seat, and gesture to put the heaviest bag, in the middle seat next to me, but in it, is a big, blue, overstuffed, stubborn book bag belonging to the woman sitting on the other side of it, in the window seat.
“Excuse me” I say, and she ignores me, making absolutely no effort scoot her bag over, not even a little bit. She only put her arm on it, as if to protect it, and so, our conversation went a little something like this:
Me: Hello mam. Excuse me? Could we share this middle seat, and could you move your bag over just a little bit, so I can put my bag down too, please?
Her: [silence…she looks in my direction, but not at me, and turns her head]
Me: [silence…I release the bag in my other hand and just as I’m about to scoot her bag over she tersely says…]
Her: My Bag is HERE.
Me: Mam, I’m carrying grocery bags, four of them and this one is really heavy, could we please share this middle seat, half and half?
Her: […she looks in my direction again, not at me, but this time with a dirty look]
Me: How many fares did you pay?
Her: [Irritated, she looks in my direction, throwing my question back at me with a heavy Spanish accent…] How many fares did YOU pay? One. I paid the same as you!
Me: Ok then, we paid the same, so could you move your bag over, so that I can use this middle seat too? Can we share it?
Her: [My words fly and crash into her invisible doors – ears wide shut. She is loud silence, but the faint sound of railroad tracks, breaks the tension. She takes out her phone and starts playing a slot machine game, a loud one]
Me: [My mind speeds off in fast forward mode, snatching the phone and stomping it into a million, wet pieces with pleasure. Snapping out of that thought, with a deep breath, I said to her…] Do you think its right to act like this?
Her: [Totally appalled and even disgusted that I’m still talking to her, she says…] Its my bag, oh my God! [Rolling her eyes, and muttering something Spanish under her breath. She continued to play her game]
Me: [In the calmest voice (after some quiet, repetitive “woosahs”), I said…] Mam, Why would a beautiful woman such as yourself, act so immature? What I asked for is simple, common courtesy stuff. Older people always speak about how the younger generation is so disrespectful and here you are completely acting as if you’re not a grown adult, And saying “Oh my God” is supposed do what? God doesn’t like ugly and that’s exactly what your behavior is right now. [My phone rang and at this point, my heavy bag is partially on top of hers and partially on my lap]
Her: [Continues to play the game]
Me: [Currently on the phone, I explain the situation to the person on the other end and conclude with, “I think she may not like Black people, or something, its as if she’s disgusted that I even sat next to her. I wasn’t rude at all, and still with her seeing me struggle with these bags, and us paying the same fair, she hasn’t moved her bag, let me shut up and get off the phone. Maybe she’s racist and hates black people, not me specifically, but just black people in general, I shouldn’t take it personal, I’ll talk to you later, I’m being rude, talking about this with her here, next to me.” So, I hung up the phone. My train stop was next. My face is utter heartbreak and I am deep-breath, offended, out of words, restless. I begin to gather my things.]
Her: [She turns to me with softened eyes, and say…] I’m sorry.
Me: Ok. [I stand up, and start putting my bags onto my wrists, but on top of the coat, for some relief]
Her: [She grabs me, the arm that has all the bags on it already, and she say’s] Mommy!!! I’m so, so, so sorry! Oh my God, please forgive me! [She said as if she’s seen a ghost]
Me: [I’m stunned, but warmed in that moment] I forgive you. Its OK.
Her: [All of a sudden, and desperate for my forgiveness, she seemed surprised, but thankful, and smiled.]
Me: [I smiled back and stepped off the train, bumping a few people in aisle seats, on my way out, these bags had a mind of their own, and home was on my mind]
[Photo Credit: Ebony Brown (c) 2014]