I found the beginning of this post in my Drafts folder. It’s over two years old, but I read it and got a kick out of it, so I figured I’d fix it up a little, append to it, and let it see the light of day.
I learned something new on the subway today. (Two years ago.)
I was on the Uptown 1 returning home after my second assignment at the (9/11) Memorial, when a young man walked onto our car. He was holding a box of Snickers and a large, filled Duane Reade bag.
“I’m unemployed and homeless,” he began his pitch, “and I’m selling these chocolate bars for $1.” Thankfully, and I could see the nervous looks from my fellow straphangers, he assured us that if we only had “hundreds,” he’d accept them as well. I was impressed with his business savvy.
“For all you white people, I have Snickers. I know all you white people love Snickers. And for all you colored folks like me, I have…” and he reached into the box and pulled out, “Kit-Kats!” I was blown away. I had no idea!
This guy was clearly bigoted! And I was offended. Not only do I love Kit-Kats, but I wouldn’t go near a Snickers even if I turned into Betty White, Abe Vigoda, Aretha Franklin, Liza Minelli, Richard Lewis, Roseanne Barr, Joe Pesci, Don Rickles, Steve Buscemi or Danny Trejo.
I didn’t get anything from him. But it wasn’t because I was afraid to stand up for my love of Kit-Kats… it was because I had no money.
In related subway news, last Thursday was National Hug Day. I had had no idea until late that afternoon, when my wife and I were brought up to speed on the Downtown 1.
At 96th Street, a young woman moved to the center of our car and called out, “Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention…”
Instinctively, my eyes started to roll and look away. It’s a Pavlovian response New Yorkers develop after years of riding the subway. After too many encounters with proselytizers who begin their pitch in much the same way this woman did, we’ve learned it’s better to avert your eyes and pretend you are already saved.
And she continued:
“That’s right!” came a voice from behind us.
My wife and I weren’t sure where this was going. Neither of us were fearful, just a little anxious to hear what she was going to say given the sensitive nature of the topic, and aware of the possibility things could get spirited.
“And I want to tell every woman of color on this train that you are loved, you are beautiful, and you matter.” Then she repeated it slowly again, making eye contact with various women of color on the train.
I nodded in agreement. And exhaled.
“And today, for those of you who don’t know, is National Hug Day. Hug someone you love. If there is anyone on this train that wants a hug,” and she opened her arms wide, “I will gladly give you one.”
This made me smile. I love hugs. I love giving them and getting them. It’s part of my regular salutation. Europeans give kisses on both cheeks, and I give hugs.
Several people took her up on her offer before we got to the next stop. I could hear “can I have a hug?” from others further down the car. I contemplated going after her for a hug, but by the time I made up my mind, she was too far gone in the opposite direction.
It ultimately was not in the cards for me hugging this woman, but the moment gave me the warm feeling that hugs and Kit-Kats usually do. Mission accomplished. And World… it’s on!