I just got home to New York, place of my birth. This past Sunday, I went to New York City for the first time since I’d gotten home – the first time in about a year, in fact – and I was expecting great things.
I was told to go fuck myself by three different people within my first hour.
The first was a man driving a black sedan with Taxi & Limousine Commission plates. He pulled up right alongside me as I was getting a clean shirt out of the trunk of my car.
“I’m not getting out,” I said.
The car didn’t pull away, so I repeated myself. Rather than drive off though, the car inched forward, creeping up right alongside me. I noticed that the side window was open.
“Sorry, I’m not getting out,” I said once more, exasperated at my failure to communicate.
But the guy didn’t pull away. Instead, he inched forward, looked me right in the eye, and glared. “Did I fucking ask you if you were getting out?” he said. “Huh? Did you hear me ask you once if you were getting out?” And with that, he threw his car in park in the middle of the street, hopped out of the car, and blew right past me on the way into the Korean deli.
Quite a welcome home.
The second guy who told me to go fuck myself – actually, he called me a fucking asshole – was a fellow riding a motorized wheelchair. I was just walking by a stand selling back copies of Life magazine, and as I turned to check out what else they might be selling, a voice called to me from my side, “Hey, man!”
I glanced over and saw a fifty-something gentleman in glasses and a black baseball cap sitting in a motorized scooter right in front of me. I stepped out of the way, and as I did, he muttered his obscenity.
I was taken by such surprise that I couldn’t keep quiet. I literally was shocked past the point of stunned silence and into the domain of immediate respose.
“Did you just call me a fucking asshole for walking down the sidewalk?” I said. Immediately, I noticed the appendage I’d tacked onto the end of that sentence, and the irony inherent in uttering it to a man riding in a wheelchair.
He just tapped the side of his head, near his temple, right above his eyes, and drove off.
The third was at a small public park just north of Lincoln Center that was dominated by metal wire coffee tables, placed in a triangle at the intersection of Columbus Ave. and Broadway. I seated myself outside, enjoying the pleasant afternoon air, and glanced at a few sections of the New York Times. It was a few minutes before there was anywhere I had to be, so, having just taken the Arts and City sections, as well as the Sunday magazine, from a pile of discarded paper parts left in the corner of a Starbucks that I’d popped into to take a napkin to blow my nose, I began flipping through the pages.
When I was done, I decided to do a good deed. I left behind those parts of the paper I’d brought – minus the crossword, which I’d taken care to rip out of the magazine and save for later – on the table at which I’d been sitting, thinking that whomsoever might next come there might enjoy reading them. Rather than have to sit with nothing to do, I figured, they’d get to pass the time by checking out some of the week’s more interesting news stories. Paying it forward, that was me: fresh in New York and ready to add a little levity to strangers’ lives.
It wasn’t five seconds before I was cussed out.
“What the fuck you think you’re doing?”
It was a parks employee. I’d seen him darting between the tables with a wheeled trash can just moments before.
“Just gonna leave your newspaper there like that, huh? Not even gonna fuckin’ pick it up.”
I was so embarrased that I didn’t even dare turn to explain to him why I’d left it. I just lowered my head and scurried across the intersection.
Ahh, springtime in New York. It’s magical.