remember that bumper sticker in the 90’s?
there are many things i have wanted to write about the past few days–my time spent as a prayer minister at st. paul’s chapel (across from ground zero) this past weekend, dad and wade’s visit and help with our extreme apartment makeover, pepper’s adjustment to city life and learning to poop on the sidewalk, how much greek hurts my head, jay’s and my first “house” party… and on and on.
but yesterday’s adventure on the M23 bus with jay takes the cake.
two high school friends of mine, becca and christy, collaborated on a “dance in public” event on the east side. i was eager to go, and jay agreed to check it out, so we hopped the bus on west 23rd until we reached the end of east 23rd. we were sitting near the front of the bus, where the seats face the center aisle. across from us sat two women, both with canes, with an empty seat between. up walked a very tall and big-boned woman, and she sat between them.
now this woman was big in that she was tall and thick. she was not morbidly obese. and while i’ll admit i’m the first to insist on putting down my armrest in an airplane to protect my seat-space, i could not believe how poorly this big-boned woman was treated.
the cane-carrying woman to the big-boned woman’s right started spouting off: “you are just sick. you are fat. you really ought to take a look in the mirror. how do you expect me to sit next to you?”
horrified, i elbowed jay, who started listening in too. the big-boned woman responded, “i’m not taking up your seat. i’m not sick. i think i look fine.”
the cane-carrying woman went on, “oh, just shut up, shut up.”
it was crazy. jay and i were both embarrassed for the big-boned woman. jay turned to me and said, “if that old woman is still on the bus when we get off, i’m going to say something to her on the way out.”
we hit another stop, and the old woman started up again: “look at yourself. how can you not know you’re fat. you are really sick.”
i’d had it. and knowing jay had my back, i spoke up.
“ma’am? ma’am. can you please be quiet. what you’re saying is very rude.”
“this is a private conversation and none of your business, ” the old woman snapped back.
“actually, you’re on a public bus, and talking loud enough for us all to hear,” jay said.
and this little exchange went on. she made fun of me for calling her ma’am… “what are you, from the south?” “yes ma’am.” “well maybe you should go back there.”
jay told her she gave new yorkers a bad name.
the big-boned woman smiled a “thank you” as she exited the bus. the old woman exited at the end of east 23rd with us. we made sure to steer clear of her cane, lest she whop us upside the head.
my hands were shaking after the incident. in talking to one of my peers today about it, he pointed out that while speaking up was the right thing to do, it did require us butting into someone else’s conversation, and so you’re left with opposing feelings of right and wrong. maybe that’s what makes people uncomfortable when approaching justice–at times you have to be wrong to be right. i was worked up for sure.
a few minutes later we were watching becca dance, talking to christy and admiring a giant pink moon rise over the east river. the beauty of the city was restored.