"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Step to the Left

The wife and I were on our way home Saturday night, riding the IRT back uptown to the Bronx. Two young, heavy-set women sat across from us with a stroller in front of them. One of the women drank a can of orange soda and played with her infant son; the boy gripped her fat fingers and laughed. The other woman tapped her cell phone and complained about how long it was going to take for them to get ready–showered and dressed–to go out.

“It’s nine o’clock, you gunna take forever to get your ass in gear. I don’t even know what I’m going to wear.”

The women chattered along–giggling and talking loudly like teenagers–and the child became restless.

“What are you bothering me for?” the mother said to him. “Why do you keep saying, ‘Papi’? Your father isn’t here.  Papi, Papi, Papi. I’m here. He’s not here. You want me to call him so you can talk to him? I brought you into this world, why you need to always bother me? I’m the boss. You do as I say.”

The Mrs and I were tucked into the two seats at the end of the car. We were distracted by the mother, our conversation halted. Finally, Emily turned to me and said, “Can we move?” I had been thinking about changing our seats for several stops. At 168th street, we moved to the next car.

It’s not about being judgemental it’s about comfort. If you can do something about it, why expose yourself to something that makes you uncomfortable, anxious or upset? Yeah, when I’m aware of it–and both Emily and I are exceedingly sensitive to this kind of thing–I don’t think, I just move.

Watch the closing doors.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Memoir  New York City  The Mrs

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1 Diane Firstman   ~  Jan 11, 2010 11:04 am

They make you pass a written and physical test to be able to drive a car.
Unfortunately, there is no such requirement for raising a child. :-(

2 Dimelo   ~  Jan 11, 2010 11:12 am

[1] Yeah I know.

What's sad is that you see the see the vicious cycle being repeated, the same mistakes made with the prior generations is repeated over and over with future generations.

Yeah, Alex, moving is the right thing to do. Sometimes people can be too loud, too stupid, or just plain ol' undesirable for reasons only known in that instant, moving is usually the best option so you don't go nuts.

3 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 11, 2010 11:15 am

Yeah, I'm not a parent so I can't pretend to know how difficult it is. This lady just happened to be a parent--something that usually strikes a nerve--but its really about anyone that is upsetting...why hang around? There is too much that I find myself numb too as it is.

4 Diane Firstman   ~  Jan 11, 2010 11:27 am

I LOVE kids. But I also know myself pretty well, and know I don't have the patience and selflessness to raise them/deal with them 24/7.

So, I am more than happy to be "Aunt Diane" to my BFF's kids, and to always say "hi" to kids in elevators or on the street ... commenting on their cool hat, or doll, or whatever.

5 RagingTartabull   ~  Jan 11, 2010 11:43 am

I really don't miss the 1 train.

Wait a minute...now I have to take the 6 to work everyday.

Damn, I miss the 1 train.

6 Yankee Mama   ~  Jan 11, 2010 11:58 am

A similar thing happened on to me on a crosstown bus. I guess I got to be a captive audience as the bus crossed the park. I was rattled. The mother, so unnecessarily loud and abusive.

All I could think was, Well little one, you've got options here. You can either decide to never treat another human being the way your mother is treating you. Or, you can replicate her behavior hereby perpetuating all that's wrong with the world. Which is it?

7 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 11, 2010 12:02 pm

6) I'm afraid to get to the place where you don't treat another human being the way an abusive parent treats you, you've got to go through many years of imitating them first. Lots of therapy and concerted effort probably helps to break that tradition.

8 Yankee Mama   ~  Jan 11, 2010 12:09 pm

[7] You're right.. The willingness and the desire to overcome would have to precipitate any change. And even then, it won't be easy. Changing a behavior is hard work. It starts with pain.

9 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 11, 2010 12:37 pm

I agree with all of you. I can't tell you how soul-draining it is to be stuck in the train with loud and foulmouthed people, young and old, who only become moreso when confronted about their behavior. If it's acceptable to the general population, I want nothing to do with it. After ten years of riding trains and buses, I'm so glad I have a car; even if I do live in the city.

10 joejoejoe   ~  Jan 11, 2010 1:54 pm

[9] I love the transit stories on Bronx Banter, good and bad. I see this post as a snapshot of life in the city, not a comment on transit. The same scene could have played out at a counter in a diner or in a park.

11 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 11, 2010 2:22 pm

[10] Don't get me wrong,the story was well told, but my own experience with city transit has been largely negative. I guess I'm not a city guy at heart, thas'all.

12 mrm1970   ~  Jan 11, 2010 3:33 pm

There is no earthly reason for an infant to be awake at 9pm at night.

13 joejoejoe   ~  Jan 11, 2010 3:45 pm

11] It's cool. I meant positive or negative stories more than stories well told. I'm not in NYC anymore and love it when Alex captures the energy of a train ride home from the ballpark. That's beautiful to me in a way traffic on the Van Wyck is not. You see the best and worst of humanity up close (sometimes too close) in the city. It's not right or wrong.

14 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 11, 2010 4:02 pm

Guys, I will try and focus more on these kinds of posts. Little snapshots of life in the city. I enjoy writing them more than I do about the latest baseball news most of the time. Thanks for all the cool feedback.

15 FlyGirlFan   ~  Jan 11, 2010 5:44 pm

Alex, you did the right thing by changing cars - with no Transit Cop in sight its best to be safe, both mentally and physically. But I would like to let you know that if you are an airplane, make sure you tell a Flight Attendant. We can ask people to lower their voices, and depending on the content of the conversation call Child Protective Services/law inforcement to meet the flight. I've done it before and will do it again, if needed.

16 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 11, 2010 6:16 pm

[3] I am a parent and there's no excuse for that kind of talk, that kind of treatment. Poor kid. It's so sad.

17 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 11, 2010 6:18 pm

[14] Yes, please do, Alex. I love when you post about these kinds of scenes. You do NY justice.

18 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 11, 2010 7:54 pm

[17] Agreed, keep them coming AB.

Often see incidents here of what would be considered child abuse back home, kid getting smacked in the head (occasionally even teachers do that, though it'S banned now.) Always makes me sick..how could you hit a child, for ANY reason?

19 gozgozlin   ~  Jan 12, 2010 10:36 pm

Are you kidding me? This has to be the most mild "bad parenting" story I've ever heard. Slight impatience? Mild profanity? Are we really such victorians that we're offended by such things these days? Or is there, just maybe, a classist vibe going on in these comments? Where the 30s something commenters display a haughty lack of sympathy for the frustrations of people from different circumstances? Sorry stuff guys, hate to say it.

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