Give and Take, Good and Bad

Customers in New York seem even more rude than customers in Wisconsin did, if that’s even possible. In just a few weeks, I have had two people call me fat, two people throw things at me, one I’m fairly certain was about to stab me with a pen before he was hauled away, and countless ones losing their tempers for absolutely no logical reason.
I swore to myself that once I had a college degree, I would never again work in retail; I worked really hard for that degree. And yet, here I am. While I understand that this is a means to an end while in grad school, I still hate it. I love the cashiers I supervise, but I hate going to work every day.
New York and retail have me quite blah.

There was a police officer in dress uniform in front of me today at Starbucks. While I was looking down at the floor, playing with my name badge for work, I caught a glimpse of something on the underside of the cap he held in the hand closest to me. I wasn’t trying to snoop, per say, but I was definitely curious. I leaned a little closer and saw it was a photograph. He smiled at me when he saw me glancing down at it, which seemed like an invitation to ask, “Do you mind if I ask whose photo you have taped there?”
“Not at all.” He flipped the cap over more and held it up so I could get a closer look. “Most police officers, fire fighters, and the like carry a photo of one of the fallen from 9/11 under their hats. If you ask, we are happy to show it you. It helps us—and others—to remember.”
There’s good in New York too. I need to remember this.

There is a man who sits on Fifth Avenue in the vicinity of Barnes and Noble almost every day. He puts his back against the brick wall and rests a cardboard sign against his knees: “Please help; my mother died of breast cancer two days ago and I just need 56 dollars for a ticket home. Help me and her get a miracle.”
By my clock, his mother has died two days ago almost forty times now, or every day that I have gone to work in the last seven weeks. It is people like this man who are the reason why I won’t give any money or any second glances to any homeless people, and that makes me a little sad. I worry I am losing my faith in humanity, that New York is burning it out of me.

I left my grad school workshop in tears last week. For a myriad of reasons. Mostly, because I don’t really fit in. I haven’t had a critique yet—though I will tonight. I don’t know how to fit into the conversation. How to make my voice heard. When I reached the bus that would drive me through the Lincoln Tunnel and deposit me safely at my nice, quiet house, it was quite late and only one spot remained. For two of us.
I must have looked pretty damn sad and forlorn, because the man who was in line with me gave me his spot. I have never seen that happen around here. We fight over those tunnel bus seats with a ferociousness that is akin to my cat attacking her food dish at night. He said to me, “You look like you need to go home more than I do.”
A mild spot of faith in humanity was restored that night.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while New York may drive me absolutely bloody mental at times, there is also good in it too. The city, like everything else in the world, is not black and white. It’s give and take, good and bad.
I would do well to remember this, always.

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