It was a crowded F-train this morning, 8:43 am. The doors closed on the
I heard a disturbance behind me and I closed the book, using my finger as a bookmark to see what was happening.
Voices got louder and I could make out what they were saying.
By the center door an old man, maybe in his seventies, maybe Latino, was having words with a young, smartly dressed Latino.
“Do you want the seat?” the old man asked.
“Get out of my way,” the young man replied.
“I asked if you wanted to sit?” the old man said again.
“Nigger, what are you trying to do?” Another young, tall African American man with an oversized baseball hat a few feet away chimed in.
“Don’t push me,” the old man said, his voice taking on a sharper tone.
I couldn’t tell if any pushing was going on. The doors had closed but we weren’t moving yet.
“Fuck you,” the young man replied. “Get out of my face. I don’t want your fucking seat.”
“He could be a grandfather, you nigger,” the tall baseball-capped black man said. “Let him have the seat. He’s a grandfather. He could be your grandfather.”
“I don’t want the seat,” the young man replied, loud enough for everyone to hear. “I never sit on the train.”
“Then stop pushing me,” the old man said, standing his ground by the pole but not taking the empty seat yet. “Are you going to sit or not?”
“Fuck you, you stupid old man. I’m not sitting down.”
The old man turned in front of the young man and sat, looking up and staring at him. The young man lowered his gaze down to a book he’d taken out.
“He could be your grandfather, nigger. You better let him have that seat.”
The old man wore a porkpie hat. He pulled it down lower onto his head and sat up tall.
The train started and the rest of us went back to our private straphanger worlds–grateful there hadn’t been a physical contest and, at least for me, grateful to the young man in the baseball cap who knew what was right and helped make it happen.