Old Me came back today. I like that I’m able to keep Old Me under wraps for professional reasons now, but I also like that Old Me is still around. Over the past year or so, I’ve had to take a long, hard look at the way I handle situations, and I’ve realized the futility of getting all bent out of shape when stupid people act the way we all should logically expect them to act. The daily commute in Manhattan helps build calluses that way, and I’m not nearly as half-cocked as I used to be walking around New York.
Old Me, however, knows not to take excessive amounts of shit when they get a little too far into my personal space – and Old Me is still capable enough, or at least capable looking enough, to get their attention when they do. I’m more likely to throw my back out these days than throw a solid punch, but nobody needs to know that.
That was self-deprecation, by the way, and it’s insincere. I can still do some shit, and I’m trying my best to keep it that way. Nothing’s changed in that regard.
Where I work in the Financial District there are lots of truck businesses: hot dog trucks, Mexican trucks, Italian sausage trucks, coffee trucks, bagel trucks, yogurt trucks and newsstand trucks. I’m a gum chewer. I like Orbit gum. Some days I like minty flavors like Spearmint and Peppermint, while other days, I like fruity flavors like Pina Colada and Tropical Remix. This depends on the weather and the mood I’m in. This is important.
Today it was Spearmint, and I bought it at the newsstand across from South Ferry – the one adjacent to the entrance to the 1 train and 1 New York Plaza. That’d be the southeast corner of Water and Whitehall if you’re not from around here and want to scope it out on Google Street View. I do that all the time when I’m reading. When a book I’m reading mentions a street, I whip out my Droid and take a look at what the author’s talking about. Usually it looks nothing like what I’d imagined. Either the authors I like are incapable of describing physical locations, or I just suck at reading. It’s probably the latter, because all published authors know what they’re doing. It’s true.
I only had a ten-dollar bill on me this morning, so I had to wait for the guy behind the counter to make change. This newsstand is busy in the morning, so I had to stand in line to buy my gum. When it was my turn, there were four people standing behind me, in a line that fanned off to my left.
I showed the guy my gum and handed him the ten, but while I did that, a soft-looking foreign-guy-of-indeterminate-origin came alongside me on my right, yammering away on his phone, and started his own line, leaning on his hand where the newsstand guy was counting out my change. This put him approximately six inches away from me, and since we were about the same height, he was now yelling in my ear. I didn’t know why this was necessary, so I turned and looked at him, but he didn’t notice and continued yelling in some rather abrasive language I couldn’t identify.
At this point, I had two choices. I could’ve waited ten seconds, taken my change, walked away and forgotten about it, or I could’ve done what I did.
“You better step the fuck back, motherfucker.” I raised my voice.
He stared at me and kept talking, but he took several steps back and stayed back. I knew exactly what was happening, because I’ve seen this shit thousands of times as a club bouncer.
People will push you. When you push them back, they’ll stop. But if you don’t push them back or say something to get them to quit pushing you, they’ll push you even more. Guys like this aren’t looking for a fight. They’re calling your bluff, figuring you’d rather get the fuck away from them than say something. This happens on the subway – on every car of every train, every single fucking day in New York. You carve out your little space in the world where you’re hanging onto a pole with nothing but air around you, and before you know it, someone’s touching you. You move six inches in one direction in order to not be touched, but then you’re being touched again. And so on.
When you wake up to what’s actually happened, you’ve moved two feet over, and the motherfucker who was rubbing against you has now co-opted a space you thought you had to yourself. That’s how it works. They’re counting on you to move, though, so if and when you do, they’ve got you. This dick figured nobody would say anything if he cut the line. He thought I’d stand there and let him yell in my ear. He thought the woman behind me would just let him take care of his business, because doing that would certainly be preferable to dealing with him. Just let me go, and the unpleasantness will stop.
People make a valid point when they tell you not to dwell on this shit or let it affect your life when you live here, but when does it end? Where do you draw the line with the walking dead around here? How many times a day, when you’re out in public, do you have to stand there and swallow it when someone pulls some bullshit on you that you wouldn’t even think about doing to them?
Thinking about moving to New York? Work out that balance in your head before you come here, because this place will give you a fucking stroke if you don’t.