Riding the New York City subway is like playing musical chairs. Everyday. But not the “oh-my-god-this-is-so-fun first 2mins” of musical chairs. It’s more often then not the “this-is-my-sworn-mortal enemy-who-I-would-sooner-skin-alive-than-let-have-a-seat” final round of musical chairs. Like many processes, inhabitants of New York that ride the subway are participants to this whether they like to be or not. We are the players, the subways are the chairs, the music is the cacophony of the public. It’s not a fun game.
Yesterday I almost laid someone out on the platform. Real quick, he was a younger black dude, dressed up and in a rush I suppose. So was I. Like most of the passengers off the uptown A to 59th that had just arrived, I was exiting the main entrance/exit under the globe. I saw the frenzy that was already ensuing in pedestrian traffic and made an effort to make myself as scarce as possible. I’ve adapted very unique and effective ways of minimizing collisions with people subterranean while remaining streamline. I’m not a confrontational person and I notice I move more swift and agile than most individuals focused on entering and exiting the subway. I’ve had to because there are just so many people with one objective. Get out or in.
So I’m making my way out, I see him, and as I’m going through the turn style he stops almost directly in front of it. I pass to his right, my left (we’re already off to a bad start) and as I pass him, my right shoulder clips his on account of me not having been left enough room to exit. But then I feel him throw his shoulder into mine. I pass him and after I realize this, I immediately turn back.
“You got a problem brother?”
To which he responded with a recital of my question back at me, suggesting we should settle out the dispute with our fist right there in the subway. So we have a potential brawl in our hands.
He removes his shades. I keep mine on because I see I’m going to have to fight for the apology I feel I deserve, (It’s all about what we think we deserve) and if that’s the case he doesn’t need to see my eyes just yet. We’re sitting there sizing each other up right in front of the terminal. He’s a young kid, maybe college, clean cut, slacks, pink sweater, a hat, very trendy looking. I am in my dog running getup, five o’clock shadow, insecurely older. One thing I know for sure is I would have laid him out quicker then he could have blinked. I’m not making this stuff up. I can throw an exceptionally quick combination in the matter of an eye blink.
He had more weight and possibly height but not by much. I could tell he was involved in some sport at some point and it would possibly take more than a few punches to put him in his place but I knew he was not as quick as me. Just by his stance. He just would not have been ready. Meanwhile my inferior left had curled up ready to start the combo. Ultimately what saved him, us both really, was that he wasn’t too smart. There is a police station directly in Columbus Circle 59th Street that essentially makes it a venerable hub for cops. Had we started fighting we would have been arrested in minutes and in less then 10, been sitting in a jail cell. In my head I know I can’t afford the time or money for this. He was simply not worth it. Every ambition I had for the next few months went through my mind and I realized how utterly shattered they would be after I had worked so hard to establish them if I had wasted another breath on this fool. I was also waiting for the idiot to hit me first. If it was going to go down here, like this, I was at least going to have the law on my side as much I could. The only thing he had to do was make sure he either didn’t miss, or knock me clean out.
There was a break, a pause. That moment when the when the dustball rolls by. In this 10 second span, I’m sure he was running through his own short list of pros and cons. Or maybe he had already resolved to fight and was over taken by the hormones that come with that. If he had, I feel bad for him. I didn’t give him the chance to find all this out. In one maneuver, I bowed, wished him a good day, smiled waved and walked away. A very difficult thing to do at the moment, but what I believe was the best decision for everyone
Why did I choose to do this? Because he was too young and full of pride to understand that the fight was about more than us. In the few moments I spent analyzing him I understood clearly what was going on. I sense he was scared. He was subjected to the treatment he delivers on others he either judges or condemns. He was now the aggressor. He had backed down before. I understood because I was the same. But I’m fortunate for the fact that I never reverted into what was once detrimental to me nor did I wish it upon anyone else. It takes a lot of maturity and discipline to avoid a confrontation, even when you know you’ll emerge the victor. I had compassion on him because Ididnt want to see another black kid sitting in jail. For what? In just a few seconds. It’s so wild how the mind works when you let it. When you use it. I smiled, waved, and wished him well because I knew what he didn’t.