Our precinct, the 19th, is the most densely populated in the city. It is also the safest. So while the likelihood of getting hit on the head is low, the risk of psychic injury is high.
On the East Side, limited sidewalk space often stresses the best of us. Meanwhile, this generally affluent area attracts many people with an outsized sense of entitlement. Not all have been schooled in the social graces. While one may come in contact with a thousand people displaying good manners, it takes only one bummer to spoil the day.
A minor contretemps at City Cinemas
Example: I’m at the City Cinemas behind Bloomingdale’s. It’s a slow weekday afternoon, and the theater is almost empty. The movie was exceedingly boring, so I turned to my iPhone for entertainment. I checked messages unaware that a woman 12 seats away could see the lighted device. She turned in my direction and barked, “Turn off the phone.” Not “Please turn off the phone” or better still, “Would you mind turning off the phone?”
I apologized knowing I was in the wrong and immediately put the device away. But this woman kept glaring at me. Why couldn’t she accept a sincere apology? I ruminated. Perhaps she had a tough childhood or blazing bunions. I don’t now why it bothered me except that I get teed off when people rudely lecture others on good manners.
I apologized knowing I was in the wrong and immediately put the device away. But this woman kept glaring at me. Why couldn’t she accept a sincere apology?
Ugly incident at a 2nd Avenue subway station
I thought of that incident at the 86th Street station of the new Second Avenue subway. A rambunctious toddler had raced into a elevator full of people, including an elderly woman. The woman berated the mother for not teaching the child manners at which point the mother grabbed the woman’s cane, whacked her and got arrested.
What follows in no way justifies such violence, but the elderly victim was herself acting badly. Perhaps the mother should have kept a tighter grip on the boy, but the kid was a rambunctious 4-year-old, for goodness sake. In publicly chastising the mother, the elderly woman was humiliating her — and in front of her son, too. (The story’s unspoken subtext was that the older woman was white and the mother and child black.)
A little zen can go a long way
How preferable it would have been had she withheld the critique. Jostling is a regular occurrence on a crowded subway elevator, and again, this is the most densely populated part of the city.
Correcting someone’s bad behavior in a rude manner only compounds the offense.
As the zen master put it:
Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it.
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