I hope you don’t mind us leaving the bar for a change of venue this week, for a story your friendly bartender feels is worth telling. For this won’t be a tale from behind the stick where I’m warbling my usual fare… chronicling the ups and downs of downing the cocktail… but instead a moment in time which I feel is most timely.
But, hey, before all that how ’bout I fix you a drink? Yes? Good! It’s Maker’s Old Fashioned, right? Okay, here ya’ go.
And now here we go…
Late this past Thursday night (I’m told around two in the morning) our maitre’ d decided he’d take the subway after work. Now this wasn’t his usual choice I should add, especially at this time of night, but it was the second night of the latest snowstorm, the streets and sidewalks were slush, and despite this not being the safest route home he decided it might be the lesser of six or so evils. So down the stairs and into the catacombs he went.
When the doors to a car near the back of the train opened wide with their usual whoosh-bang, he entered the car, took up a seat, and immediately realized each end of that car held a threat. There were two unsavory characters flanking him, both clad in tatters and scowls, both looking down his way, he could feel, with menace. Or was it sadness? And with no one else in the car, dear reader, which added to his paranoia, this could’ve been one of those things you call “a situation”.
The guy hunched over near the back of the car, owning nothing apparently but the clothes on his back and the expression on his face which bespoke his station in life, stared steely-eyed and darkly from his end of the world. And, to the front of the car, a guy who was just as shabbily dressed but in possession of at least plastic bags holding God knows what, contributed a similar stare as the train rumbled off. And my friend, sitting warily in the middle of this stereo threat, was filled with the usual thoughts which can quick run to dread. Is this a set-up? Are these two guys a team? Am I the hapless mark these guys have been waiting for? Just keep your eyes straight ahead and hope for the best!
Then stuff happened.
The guy with all the plastic in front of him began rooting through all those sacks until he retrieved something my friend could not discern. At least not at first. Then, holding whatever it was in his hand he got up from his seat and headed slowly down the car… which of course caused my friend to immediately think, “This is it!” Now I should point out that our maitre ‘d is not what you’d call some wimp, he’s also doubled as a bouncer in that rare case when needed, but he doesn’t carry a weapon which changes this picture. So, as the train continued to rumble, my friend prepared to “rumble” if that was the call.
But as this guy in his shuffle got closer to my friend, perilously close at one point, he could see that the object in hand was nothing but a sandwich… a gift of kindness for the guy at the other end. (No knife, no gun, no need to worry, let’s all relax!) And when this man with the shuffle approached that guy and proferred his outstretched cargo… that guy now with widening eyes and the hint of a smile… he offered his humble gift with a humble bow. Now these two guys hadn’t known each other, it was clear by the way they interacted, but now they did on a level we’ll never know. It was a moment of magic.
The donor then turned and shuffled back up and returned to his plastic estate, never once looking down at my friend as he passed him by. He then rummaged again through his bags a-plenty, produced a bottle from their depths, then poured its contents into a cup and repeated the procedure. He shuffled back down with the beverage in hand and set it next to his new friend, the two again bowed sweetly, and all with nary a word being spoken save, “Thanks.” For no words it seems were needed, dead reader, these men were now in a place that was silent and deep.
The donor then shuffled on back from the scene, reclaimed his space at the front, and all in that car were warmer both inside and out.
So when the train hit 23rd Street, the stop where my friend gets off, he was so impressed by what he had seen and embarrassed by what he had thought, he quickly walked over to the man with the bags, slipped him some cash for the cause, and acknowledged with words what a good thing he’d seen the man do. The man said “thanks” with a smile and a twinkle, bowed again as he did so, and looked for that moment like the richest man in New York. But not because of what he’d received… those dollars in the palm of his hand… but because of what he had given to another human being. For he was smiling long before my friend had made his donation.
So what does this true story tell us, dear reader, when all here is said and done? To not judge a book by it’s cover? Tis’ better to give than receive? Cast your bread on the water and it comes back tenfold? I would say all three and much, much more! Wouldn’t you?
Over and out from your local subway, see ya’ again next week-end behind the stick!