“Okay, you can do it.”

This morning, I was part of the huge crowd of suburban commuters streaming out of the east Madison Avenue exit of Union Station.

It’s a little chaotic when you step outside the station during morning rush hour. There’s not a ton of room. Often, there are several representatives from a random company strategically placed in your way, handing out free samples of something-or-other. Lately, there have been a couple people standing next to their own little book display near the outside entrance who want to tell you something about The Bible.

Some commuters want to cross Madison Avenue, some commuters want to walk east on Madison, some commuters want to walk west. I walked by a couple women, one of whom was waving to yet another woman, who waved back. The couple and the single woman were separated by a throng of people, but the single woman was making her way towards toward them.

Back to the couple of women. The non-waving woman (NW) said to her waving (W) companion, “Do you want me to wait for you?” It seemed like W knew the other woman, while NW probably didn’t, or at least didn’t know her as well as W did.

W replied, “Okay, you can do it.” This reply was uttered in a nice-but-lazy tone of voice.

The interaction between NW and W stuck in my head on my walk from the train to my building. I didn’t like what W said. Why did she say that? Why couldn’t she have simply said, “Yes, please.”?

NW had offered to wait. She said something nice and selfless. W basically gave her approval to NW’s action, but without acknowledging the gesture/niceness/sacrifice NW offered to make for her.

What was the nature of W and NW’s relationship? Was it unequal? Did NW often offer help or comfort to W, only to never have it acknowledged by W? Did W do this to everyone, or just NW?

Or, less likely, was NW usually the oblivious jerk of the relationship, never recognizing the friendship of W, and W was just being passive-aggressive about it this one time?

I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure.

You’re Not Gonna Die

The commuter train I ride to work has two levels. In the morning I generally ride on the lower level.

A woman in her early 50’s sat next to me today. She is often in the same car as me. Generally she sits up one seat with some friends of hers, where two sets of seats face each other, but her particular spot happened to be already taken.

Still, she was gabbing with her friends on the ride in, if a little more awkwardly. I had started the book Devil In The White City that morning, but got tired of reading, put away my book and just stared at nothing particular.

I was startled by a loud noise. A travel mug from the top section of the train had crashed to the floor next to our seat. As it made contact with the floor, coffee erupted out of it, spraying the woman next to me, and to a lesser extent some other women sitting nearby.

The rest of the ride was tense. Well, not for me — for the women involved. The owner of the travel mug was a woman around the same age as my seat buddy. The mug was handed up to her.

My seat buddy began wiping a napkin over her bleached blond hair repeatedly. She kept on saying, “It fell on my head.” It seemed like she was implying the mug fell on her head, which wasn’t the case. I don’t doubt that some coffee got in her hair, on her clothes, etc. I couldn’t see the degree of coffee damage done from my vantage point, but I imagine it was significant.

She wasn’t incredibly loud or obnoxious about it, but my seat buddy continued to talk about the coffee on her person. My eavesdropping isn’t so good, but I *think* she was talking about how coffee can ruin platinum. Also, she kept on glaring up at the coffee dropper as she was talking.

The coffee dropper, apparently tired of hearing about the droppee’s complaints, leaned down and said, “You’re not gonna die.”

This was fuel to the fire of my seat buddy. She repeated the coffee dropper’s words to her friends. This drew the coffee dropper back to speak again to my seat buddy. My seat buddy said, “You didn’t even say ‘sorry’. You said, ‘You’re not gonna die.'”.

The coffee dropper insisted she *had* said sorry already. I didn’t hear the coffee dropper actually say sorry, but I don’t see how she couldn’t have.

My seat buddy recounted the entire story to the conductor as he handed her the napkins, including the “You’re not gonna die” exchange. As she spoke to him he repeatedly told her to not worry about the floor (she must have been looking down at it intently, I guess) — either it would take care of itself, or he would have it cleaned up.

The conductor looked up and asked, “Was that your coffee?” The coffee dropper said, “Yes.” “Try to be more careful,” he replied. Then my seat buddy informed the conductor that after the accident the coffee dropper had returned her mug to the *same* location it had been when it had fallen down in the first place.

The conductor said that if my seat buddy had any cleaning bills for her coffee-stained clothes, please let him know about it.

I don’t know if the coffee dropper removed her mug from the place where it had previously fallen from, but the mug did not fall again.

My seat buddy continued to glare at her.

Finally, we pulled into Union Station. The coffee dropper slipped out of the train well before my seat buddy and I were able to exit. I presume no fight ensued.

The Water Bottle Story

I was out for a walk last night. It was around 10pm, clear skies, reasonably cool.

I got to the train tracks in the middle of town. I planned to cross the tracks, then continue on for about a two mile walk in a roundabout way back to my house.

A freight train was going by. A man and a woman were on the sidewalk, sitting on their bicycles, also waiting. The man took a final swig from his bottled water. He set it down on the ground next to his foot.

“Is he going to leave the bottle?” I thought. I didn’t see a backpack on him, or a saddlebag on his bike, but he must have had the bottle with him, carrying it around. It would have been heavier before he emptied it of liquid, so I knew he was capable of taking an empty bottle.

Maybe he would stoop down to pick it up before he rode off. I looked at the graffiti on the passing freight cars. Nothing too amazing, a few bubble-letter tags, not even that colorful.

The freight train finally went by and the gates went up. The cyclist put his feet on the pedals, and rode across the tracks. The empty water bottle fell down as he brushed against it. He and the woman turned a corner and were gone.

So now, it’s me and the empty water bottle. What should I do? I picked it up. There was a garbage can by the train station. Maybe there was also a recycling can? I reached the train station and saw there was only a garbage can.

I couldn’t put it in the garbage. It should be recycled! So, I placed it on top of the garbage can. I started back on my walk.

What did I just do? How was I any better than the littering cyclist? I was leaving this bottle as someone else’s problem. Would people realize that by putting the bottle on the garbage can, I was saying to them, “Look. I know this shouldn’t go in the garbage. But I’m done with it. I would put the bottle in a recycling can if I could, but none were available. Please understand I tried my best.”

Noticed that I thought “But I’m done with it.” I have a relationship with the bottle. I never used it. It never helped me carry anything, or quenched my thirst. But now it is mine. I’m responsible for it.

I walked away from the garbage can and the bottle. I thought about the bottle. It probably wouldn’t stay on the can. It would get blown off with the slightest breeze. And then what would people think? “Stupid litterer, throwing his trash all over the ground.” That wasn’t me. It wasn’t. But I kept on walking.

I crossed the tracks, another street, and came to a corner. There was a garbage can there. Improbably, there was also a recycling can. This was right outside a bar. Perhaps that’s why it was there. I stopped. I thought for a few seconds.

I turned back, crossed the street, crossed the tracks, went back and got the bottle, which still stood where I had placed it. I crossed the tracks again, crossed the street and threw the bottle in the recycling can.

“That’s done”, I thought. But what if this bottle doesn’t actually make it to a recycling center? What if it lazily gets tossed in with unrecyclable garbage? What if it’s dropped in a landfill?

I don’t know. I hope the bottle gets to where it needs to be. That’s all I can do.

THE END

Is One Of Those Kids Yours?

We’re watching a little puppet show at Andersonville’s annual street festival yesterday.

I give my kids the few singles I have in my wallet to give to the little cat puppets, who entertainingly take the money and parade around.

A small crowd of kids is laughing right under the puppet show stage, jumping and having a good time.

Someone taps me on the shoulder, a man I don’t know. “Is one of those kids yours?” he asks.

He hands me a dollar bill. I give the dollar to my youngest son, who knocks on a tiny door below the main stage. A scarlet macaw pops out and takes the bill from him.

He’s In My Emails

Sitting at a McDonald’s PlayPlace. A woman ignores her happily running and screaming two children (ages 8-11 or so), focusing intently on her pink, beglittered Blackberry.

I get my kids to go, come back to throw away some trash.

The woman is standing, talking on the phone now.

“He’s gotten into all my email accounts. He’s in my emails.”

A Nice Moment With My Youngest

Not sharing a piece of artwork from my youngest (4 yo) boy, but an anecdote from earlier this morning.

He came into the bathroom to show me something when I was getting ready to take a shower.

I said to him, covering myself up a bit, “Can I have a little privacy? I’m naked.”

He responded, “It’s okay, Daddy. I won’t laugh at you.”

It’s All Barbeque, Idn’t It

I have been going to a restaurant that’s walking distance from my place of employment for a few months. It’s notable in that the restaurant’s name has three words, all of which have accent marks.

They have a BBQ pork sandwich w/ fries special on Tuesdays that I like to order. The restaurant also has Mexican food, Greek food, cheeseburgers, etc. It’s a hodgepodge of cuisines.

So as I walk up to the restaurant today, I see a chalkboard sign on the sidewalk in front of the place. It says BBQ pork, but above it, written in large letters is the word “KOREAN”.

Hmm.

I walk in. There are Korean gentlemen behind the counter and wandering about. I sit down and look at the menu. BBQ pork is still a special.

I ask the waiter, what kind of pork is the special? He says it’s Korean BBQ pork. Hot and spicy, but not too spicy.

What the hell. I order the special, and soon am eating a spicy pile of BBQ pork and white rice.

One of the gentlemen told me the restaurant changed hands on October 1st.

Does this kind of thing happen that often? And how odd is the fact that despite the change in the menu, I could still get BBQ pork as a special?

The new owner made sure my coworker and I knew about the upcoming buffet and karaoke this Friday. If they have some Sabbath on the jukebox, I might just go.