Mr. wOw is not a naturally thoughtful person. Oh, I’m nice enough. And sensitive enough, in that I cry when those damn abused-animal commercials come on. I love B. and I love the few friends I have. I try not to be horrible.
But I have always been a bit…distracted. I drift a lot, mentally. I don’t listen, for example, no matter how many times I’m reminded when your birthday is. And when I realize your birthday has passed, I’m bereft. But screw bereft, Mr. wOw, how about putting up a Post-It on your computer?
I’m not naturally charitable, either. It’s an impulse thing. For several years around the holiday season I went with friends to dish out warm meals to the homeless, or to those living at hospices. But without the impetus of my friends (or their on-the-spot, aren’t-you-wonderful approval) I drifted away from that. Which is too bad. I sure did feel I was doing something worthwhile. And yes—it made me feel better about myself. Sometimes selfishness works.
When the great tsunami hit back in 2004, I’d just received a rather generous bonus. The magnitude of the disaster, the loss of life was so overwhelming I sent in $500 toward relief. I can’t say I was literally moved by the plight—I didn’t cry or lose sleep or anything– but I was certain I had an extra $500 and what the hell else was I going to do with it? Also, it was Christmastime.
So, with some sense of my giving nature, I want you to imagine Mr. wOw at the Port Authority the other evening, standing on line, waiting to buy a ticket to fabulous Hoboken, New Jersey. (Yes, I know I should buy a monthly pass. But why do something that would make my life easier?)
My patience was wearing thin, as entire families were ahead of me, none of them super-acquainted with English, all paying with credit cards (more time wasted!) and none of them quite knowing exactly where they were going. Maps were being unfolded! The more impatient I became, the uglier my thoughts were. I kept forcing myself back into reality—Mr. wOw, would you know the language in Spain? Don’t most people pay for most everything with credit cards? And this is a bus station. People are going to ask where they are going. That’s what bus stations are for! Asshole.
Just as I’d settled in, head-wise, and berated myself properly, a fortyish African-American man approached. He was using a cane, and carrying a little card, asking for money to eat. He was tall and rather hearty looking. He’d not shaved for a few days and wasn’t wearing the latest stylings from Prada, or even The Gap, but he didn’t look needy to me. I waved him away, and busied myself fussing with my much-too-long hair. (I’m now working that hot Albert Einstein look.)
Almost as soon as I did my dismissive hand gesture, I regretted it. The night before I’d watched Anderson Cooper reporting from Somalia—thousands dying of starvation. Okay. Just because this guy is black, he’s not from Somalia, obviously, and don’t get your white guilt in a twist. He’s probably a drug addict. NO! No, No! Why, Mr. wOw, do you think that? Because he’s black, he has to be a drug addict? Maybe he really is hungry, or at the very least, poor and looking for shelter? Why are you such a bitch?
Finally, I got to the window, made my cash ticket purchase, and looked around for the guy with cane. He was approaching other people and getting nowhere. But he wasn’t making a fuss, just moving on. He still looked awfully healthy, but so do I, and I’m not, actually. I resisted the impulse to give him money. He was hungry, really? Fine. I’d get him some food.
I sprinted over to the deli thingy in the PA, and looked to see what I could buy. I spotted a luscious turkey sandwich, very big. “How much is that?” I asked. Without answering the guy behind the counter plucked the sandwich from its display. “How much is that?” I repeated, as he began wrapping it up.
“What? I’m not paying eleven dollars for a turkey sandwich. Why are there no prices on anything?”
He handed me the sandwich, “Price is there.” No it wasn’t and eleven dollars was three dollars more than I was even carrying.
I declined the turkey and suffered some typical slurs.
My hungry man had begun to wander away from the ticket area, but he wasn’t exactly trotting, so I crossed the floor and went into the pizza-type place. Should I venture a stromboli roll, or a calzone? No, better one of these double-stuffed, super-slices of pizza—one is practically a meal.
So I ordered the veggie-slice (even street people should eat healthy) It took forever. No, I did not want a drink. Yes, please put it in that cute triangular box. Why is the person in front of me speaking Mandarin? Not that I have anything against the Mandarins. And if could speak another language I might choose that one because it’s so… Rita Hayworth in “Lady From Shanghai.”
Finally, I have the slice. But I don’t have my guy. Cane, sign and all, he has vanished. I go to the ticket counters. I scope out the first floor. I go to the second, though I can’t imagine he’d have made it that far in only a few minutes. I check the bathrooms. Not a pleasant task. Nor one that suits a fey middle-aged man. Back in the day I was arrested twice in the PA. It was all kinda cute then. As was I. Those cards have been played.
And while I hurry hither and thither, holding the slice, looking for this man, I keep thinking, “And just why are you doing this? What are you trying to prove? Why don’t you just be a bit nicer to B? You’ll feel better. And he doesn’t even require pizza. Or if you must—send money to Somalia. You have a bit extra right now. That will make you feel worthwhile.”
After twenty minutes I gave up. It was the peak of rush hour and I had a feeling I was being watched—especially as I bopped in and out of the foul men’s rooms. “Oh, you see officer, I want to give this pizza to…” Yeah, sure.
I caught my bus. I gave B. a big kiss and tried to be cheerier. I donated $100 to Oxfam, which works in conjunction with Aid The Children. This will feed a family of six for two weeks.
Uh, the slice? And so, dear reader, I ate it.