i’ve been feeling terrible about something not that terrible that happened to me the other day.
actually, it didn’t happen to me. it happened with me being where it happened.
On a train. A crowded train at rush hour. When I stepped into the train, I did what you are supposed to do, and moved to furthest part of the furthest part of the back as I much as I could to make more room for other passengers. And I found myself standing above this empty space on the bench. A tiny sliver of a space on the bench, between a somewhat wide woman and this stern looking guy, reading his newspaper. And even though it was against all of my instincts, i felt compelled to take the seat, just to stand out of the way and make more space for more people.
But when I sat down, neither of them made any attempt to make room for me, which (not to sound self-righteous) I would have done for them.
This was a huge miscalculation. I had a strange premonition, a bad vibe that I should not take that seat. Oh, why could I not heed its call?! there was only enough room for me to half sit, at the edge of the bench because the people around me were not allowing me to sit further in. It was like my worst parking maneuver ever. I felt the elbows of the guy reading the newspaper pushing against me as he turned the pages in a way that I thought had to be intentional. Until the very next thought–that I was just being paranoid. And unfair for me to judge this guy as belligerent. Maybe a person who judges other people as belligerent is the most belligerent of them all.
After about a minute of getting elbowed, he turned to me and said, “Sir! You keep leaning into me!!” I actually can’t recall what I said in response. I don’t think it was all that articulate, certainly not clever. I think I may have said something about the narrowness of the seats on this train. And then I saw him shaking his head, looking down at his newspaper with an air of disgust… at me… not the seats. He looked kind of pissed.
And then I felt this huge deep hostility welling up inside me. I hated the hostility that had taken hold of me. It was an awful feeling. And then I felt hostile towards my hostility.
But my only instinct was to stand up and push myself as far away from him as the remaining space would allow, which was only about 3 feet. I tried to think of ways I could retaliate, maybe find something to say that would cause him shame, and embarrassment and humiliation. To see the selfishness of his ways and how it was impacting the world around him. And how would he like it if the world treated him that way?
I thought I could tell him that I was just recovering from cervical spine surgery after a broken neck (which was true 8 years ago), and then see how that would make him feel. I could have said, “you must be a Republican, probably a Trump supporter.” And he could have said, “well, what if I am?” And I could have said, “well, you must be really proud of yourself.” And he could have said, “well, what if I am?” And then I would have no idea how to answer.
I wonder if I should be more prepared for these situations. But who knows what that would entail? I am glad I at least have a few better things to do with my time.