True warmth on a cold winter’s night…

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!

20 Responses to “True warmth on a cold winter’s night…”

  1. 1 d-a-p February 13, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    what a wonderful story…written beautifully…and so timely during these very difficult days…
    thank you…

  2. 2 Comrade PhysioProf February 13, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Nice story! Did I ever tell you the one about me falling asleep on the train? I was partying with a buddy of mine in the west village, and staggered over to Sheridan Square to grab the 1 train. I get on the train, and as we are chugging uptown, I start to get sleepy. So I say to myself, “I’ll just lean over a little bit and rest my eyes for a few minutes.”

    The next thing I know, I open my eyes, and I am completely prone across the seats, and the train is full of douchebags in suits on their way to work in the morning looking down at me with disgust. I must have gone back and forth between Corty and the Ferry a couple times.

  3. 3 scribbler50 February 13, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    d-a-p: Thanks, man, I was thinking the same thing regarding “these difficult days”. We all could learn a lesson from the generous bag man.

    Comrade Physioprof: No you never told me that mess before but I’m sure glad you did now. That’s hilarious, Bro. Oh what I’d pay to see that fiasco on film!

  4. 4 Anonymoustache February 14, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Superb post, Scrib50!
    Yet another of those wonderful little anecdotes that seem to be somehow typical of NYC life. I know of a guy in NYC who packs 2 identical lunches when he leaves for work everyday—one for him and one for someone in need that he was bound to see…..

  5. 5 Isis the Scientist February 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Very nice, Scribbler. It’s interesting how our preconceptions can color how we perceive people.

    Also, will you be my Valentine?

  6. 6 scribbler50 February 14, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Anonymoustache: Thanks, Bud, and you’re right… there are thousands of those little moments going on every day, we just don’t hear about them. Not newsworthy! Kudos to your friend who packs the double lunch.

    Isis: Yes, dear, I’ll be your valentine, but don’t tell Mr. Isis!

  7. 7 Donna B. February 14, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    My eyes got all watery reading this. Thank you!

  8. 8 Jennifer February 14, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    I’d like to think that these happenings are the norm… we merely assume it’s the other way around since those are usually the only ones we hear about. Thanks for the tale.

  9. 9 scribbler50 February 14, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Donna B.: Your welcome, friend… thanks, as always, for checking in.

    Jennifer: Maybe you’re right, maybe these moments are the norm, who knows? Like you said, we just don’t hear about them. Most people have good hearts, that I do believe, it’s just that in too many cases they’re too caught up in their own stuff to stop and look around. Myself included!
    Thanks for the comment.

  10. 10 Scicurious February 15, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    That is gorgeous. Makes me feel good about humanity on a rainy icky day. 🙂

    Also, a belated happy Valentine’s Day for my favorite bartender!

  11. 11 scribbler50 February 15, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Scicurious: Thanks, Sci, and a belated Happy Valentine’s Day to you. Keep warm!

  12. 12 Irishirritant February 16, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Grand story…another reason for public transport.
    thanks Scrib.

  13. 13 scribbler50 February 16, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Irishirritant: Amen, brother, and thanks as well for the comment.

  14. 14 Nadine February 16, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I read your Blog every week and enjoy it, though I don’t always comment. This story was really special. It made me think of stories my grandmother told me about hobo’s coming to her door during the depression. She lived near a railroad track where they rode the rails looking for work. She was almost as poor as they were, but she always had something for them to eat. I hope some day to see your writings in a book.

  15. 15 Petro February 16, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. These little vignettes are what will get us through the worst of times.

  16. 16 scribbler50 February 16, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Nadine: Thank you so much, not just for your kind words and the fact you’re a regular to this site, but for sharing that lovely story about your grandmother. It’s the perfect companion piece to my little story.
    All the best, friend!

    Petro: And thank you for reading these little vignettes, that’s what keeps ’em comin’.

  17. 17 Chris February 17, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Great story Scrib. My grandmother also told me similar stories about how her family had a table in the back of their house and her mother would feed who ever needed feeding during the Great Depression. We definately get caught up in our own lives and forget about those less fortunate. I think there are a lot of people who look down on the homeless, we could all use a bit more empathy.

    On a side note being a southerner who is use to southern politeness, the few times I have visited NYC, the people I talked to or pestered for directions or questions about trains were all very friendly. It was not at all what I expected, you yanks aren’t all bad. 😛 Hope you had a good V-day Scrib.

  18. 18 scribbler50 February 17, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Chris: Thank you for that and thanks for the good report on NYC. No, we Yanks aren’t bad at all, maybe in too big of a hurray sometimes which might come off to a stranger as rude or brusque… but we’re just like anyone else. Ask for directions on a subway car and watch… six different people will turn it into a full blown panel discussion.

  19. 19 Physiobabe February 18, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Here I am, Scrib. Better late than never, I say!

    Beatiful post. I was once groggy on the old D train (back in the day), fell asleep and wound up in the train yard. The kindly conductor walked through the train to make sure it was empty, came upon me slumped over my book “From Here to Eternity” and tapped me on the shoulder. “Ride back with us, Miss,” he said, and I did – to my station.

    I LOVE New York!

  20. 20 scribbler50 February 18, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Physiobabe: Okay, the post is now complete… you’ve arrived!
    Hey, thanks for that sweet little tale, my friend, there could’ve been a whole different ending. Glad it took the positive turn it did. And even though I’m not a native, I second your emotion about New York!

    Now be on time next week, dammit!

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