Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Lady and the Subway


Riding the subway everyday gives me the opportunity to watch and observe people. And I have mastered the art of "nonchalance analysis" of various personalities. Not to appear as a psychotic creep, I do a sweeping glance of the people who sit in front of me and quickly take in the visual data scanned by my eyeballs. Then my left brain goes into this analyzing mode that tells the story of each person. "This person looks like she has the worry-bug. She probably nags on her husband all the time. His sex life must suck." Or "She is very pretty but she should have done her makeup more naturally. And what the heck? It's -15 degrees outside and she's wearing a mini-skirt, tights and high-heels! It looks like the price tag of her self-worth is attached somewhere in the depth of her Louis Vuitton purse." etc, etc.

There are also a number peddlers who go around begging for money, selling packets of gum, or little household items. My heart does truly ache for those who have disabilities and can only work selling things to commuters on the subway. One woman especially stands out in my mind.

This woman was severely crippled to a point where she couldn't walk without grabbing onto the built-in pole in the subway car. Her face was grotesquely countenanced and the lines of her face seemed to map out the tragedies of her life. She was selling packets of gum and because of her inability to walk up to each person, (and probably her anger at life) she came across as rude and obnoxious in her silent "marketing" strategy. She just threw a packet of gum onto the lap of each person and went around to collect money. Some people buy them out of pity, but this woman invoked no such sympathy. Then she came up to me and I was able to look at her face more closely. In her miserable face, I saw a faint hint at her desire to be loved. Her eyebrows were drawn in by permanent makeup.

I suppose some would say if she has enough money to get her permanent makeup done, she should have enough money to feed herself. But I think differently. I think our desire to be beautiful stems from our desire to be loved. And I think being loved is essential to our survival as much as food is. She desperately wanted to be accepted. Her behavior and the look on her face ostensibly condemned her life and the numerous people who have made her life a living hell. But I believe that deep down, she wanted a second chance at life and wished the world would look upon her with kinder eyes.

In realizing this, my heart broke but all I could do was hand her a thousand won bill ($1) in exchange of a gum packet.

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