I take the streetcar, the subway and the bus every day. Though I may share some frustrated words when there are delays or the bus drives right past me, I ultimately attempt to show my appreciation for public transportation. Thanks to public transport, I can pay $120 a month and have access to a ginormous city at almost all hours of the day. I don’t need a car, or gas, and though it may not always be a comfortable ride, I safely get from Point A to Point B.
My problem, is people.
I feel like I have gotten harder as a person since using public transport on a daily basis. I used to be patient and warm, but now I feel like I am just like everyone else: enduring the packed-like-a-sardine subway ride home with a dead stare and my headphones on.
Then yesterday, something happened.
At work, a coworker brought in a bunch of cookbooks for me. Having recently gone vegetarian, I find myself constantly hungry and wanting to eat carbs to replace the fullness that eating meat gave me. I have no problem saying no to meat, but I do have this gaping hole in my diet that I need to fill, and at the rate that I’m injesting chickpeas, I may BECOME one soon. I was extremely grateful for her advice and the cookbooks she let me take home to test out.
But they were heavy, and as per usual, I was standing on the subway car on the way home. Due to weather conditions, I bring my work shoes TO work, and wear winter shoes on the commute, so I had a bag of cookbooks, my lunch bag (with my regular reading book) and my shoes in a bag. I was standing facing a row of seats, holding the above-head bar with one hand, and gripping the heavy bags in the other. After about 4 stops, I could feel the blood draining from my fingers, so I took the chance to switch the bags to the other hand for a second, flex my fingers a bit, and replace them.
There was an elderly man seated in front of me, who had his head down and whom I assumed as asleep, or close to. He must have seen my bag shifting, or my sore red hands, because he reached out and grabbed my bags and put them between his feet. At first I was startled, and the women standing on either side of me looked at me wide-eyed. He had my bags resting between his shoes, holding them sturdy with his ankles, and had closed his eyes again.
We all stood (or sat, in his case) in silence for the rest of the ride. When I got off the subway, he handed the bags back to me and in a gruff, quiet voice, told me to have a nice night. When I thanked him, he nodded slowly and closed his eyes.
I have no idea why this made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I may have forgotten what it was like to have a complete stranger do something nice for you, like holding your heavy bags because your hands have gone numb. I will probably never see this elderly gentleman again, but he made my afternoon. My day actually. Kindness has a way of doing that.