To Speak or Not To Speak?

Southern hospitality is one of those things that can be a bit elusive, but should always be well appreciated.  While I don’t consider myself to be a southern belle, I certainly wouldn’t classify myself as “mean.”  When casually walking down the street it isn’t often I’m not wearing a big smile and when I make eye-contact with others I try to offer a head nod accompanied with a weak, “hey/hello.”  After my most recent trip to NYC however I learned that not only is this behavior outside of the norm, it actually opens myself up to be taken advantage of.  No bueno.

A homeless performer on the train

It all started on the train.  As a matter of fact, all of the following instances occurred on the train.  When riding them in NYC you encounter all walks of people-the rich, the poor and everyone between.  It never fails that on these train rides there is some sort of performer/dancer/beggar around who is willing to entertain the people in exchange for a few dollars.  Ashley warned me countless times to just shut up, look away and do my best to ignore people.  Unfortunately I had to learn this lesson the hard way. 

On one particular train ride a homeless man delivered an extensive monologue, afterwards thanking us profusely for our time.  When only one woman donated to his plight in the form of a few pieces of change, he went off on the train.  “Thank you kind lady for your hospitality.  Have a wonderful day!  I mean that!  As for the rest of you all, I hope you all have a f*cked up day!  Matter of fact, have a REALLY f*cked up day!”  At this moment, I took the time to look up at him with my mouth dropped open in shock and I shook my head at him.  After making eye contact with me he exclaimed, “This is all comedy.  If you are too serious that you can’t take a joke, f*ck you too!”

After saying a silent prayer for that man I got off the train and continued with my day and much later that night around 1am I found myself back at the train station with Ashley, on our way to the club.  While we were waiting on the train, out of nowhere two random men approached us aggressively out of nowhere.  I inhaled sharply. “Hey ma, what’s good?  I seen you and knew I had to see what was up.  Where you from?!”  He looked about 19yrs old (although he insisted he was 29), dressed in a gray hoodie with a vest.  He was pretty tall and had the whole “light skinned, pretty boy, I know I’m the hottest thing out right now” attitude going.  Already I wasn’t feeling him.  His boy who was trying to game Ashley looked like 50Cent’s brother and was coming off real aggressive. 

Long story short, I popped off at the mouth, forgetting that I wasn’t dealing Ohio boys.  BIG MISTAKE.  After telling the young guy that he wasn’t for real about anything because he was a “friggin liar” and that instead of following me on the A train he could “head downstairs to the D or wherever else” he’s from (in addition to some other ridiculous things), he let his boy know what they were dealing with.  “Nah man, let’s go.  She out here OD fancy son with those gloves and sh*t.”  His boy ignored him and kept spittin game at Ashley.  “You know I live right above this station.  It’s the new year, we got drinks at the crib.  I’m not sayin I smoke or nothing, but we can take care of that too if you want.  We can just chill for real.  It a be a real good time.” 

Ashley was trying not to laugh as I declared, “Good time?  Sounds like yall tryin to violate somebody for real.  Talkin about smoking and drinkin!”  Dude turned his head back at me too quick.  “Violate!  What the f*ck man!  Who does this chick think she is dog!?”  After getting upset/angry and walking off Ashley told me, “Yancey what did I tell you about talking to random people?  Say as little as possible.  Those dudes were crazy and I don’t have my pepper spray.  Plus there were 3 others with them that were standing over by the train steps.  What if they’d have dragged us off somewhere?”  Oops.  My bad Ash.  Lol.

After waiting just a few more minutes the train finally came and Ashley and I were on our way to the club.  A few stops in, a homeless woman got on.  She had a can of beer tucked into the front pocket of her roll-around red suitcase and was bundled up underneath a big, black, puffy coat.  She had a scarf tied around her head and her hands looked very dark, rough and beat up.  After sitting down she looked Ashley and I up and down and told us we looked nice.  Ashley offered a simple “thank you.”  The homeless lady went on to tell us to be safe that night.  “Thank you so much ma’am.  Now you make sure you are safe tonight too.”  The lady repeated herself, so then I repeated myself, then she began to tell me about how she really felt.  “Thank you so much.  And I’m gonna try to be safe but it’s so hard out here!  I ain’t never gonna go back over there!”  At this point her voice started breaking down and while I saw no tears, I realized she was beginning to cry.  “That man there hit me!  He hit me right there in my eye.  Now my eye swollen.  Never goin back to that house.  Talkin about he want his money.  I don’t have no money!  I don’t have nothing!  Uh uh uh, I ain’t never goin back over there!!!”  My mouth dropped open.  And stayed open.  I was speechless.  And then it was time for Ashley and I to get off the train.  After the train pulled off Ashley said, “What did I tell you Yancey?  See…”

I was so caught off guard by that homeless woman on the train that I kept thinking about her for the rest of my trip.  Whenever I’d want to say a little bit more then “hello,” I’d remember how I’d received much more than a simple salutation from that woman and I’d keep it moving.  I was not going to place myself in another awkward position again because I’d made the “wrong” kind of eye contact (homeless man), said too much (young guys in train station) or cared too much (homeless woman).

This continued until my final day.  As I was walking 4 blocks to retrieve my car I heard a young man, about a block away, walking towards me yelling in my direction.  I had no idea what he was saying because I had zoned him out.  I was on a mission to get back to my car so that I could get my day started.  As we got closer his yelling grew in agitation.  It drew me out of my zone and I heard, “I ain’t tryin to talk to you, dang!”  I looked up and he was just a few paces in front of me. 

“Your glove.  You dropped it.  Look behind you.” 

“Oh!  Thank you so much!  I’m so sorry!” 

“Yeah, whatever man.”

Smh.  I can’t win.


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