13th December, 2010
By all the auto shops with cut up cars spilling out onto the pavement, and spilling purple oil into the gutter, and all the Latin dudes leaning against the cars with such unconscious grace, never wearing coats in the cold, just layer upon motley layer, by the shops with “Food Stamps Now Accepted Here”, near the Kosher pharmacy and the tailor from Pakistan who’s sitting in the window of his shop with his long white beard and a black, old-fashioned sewing machine, his sign up in Arabic script, crossing Coney Island Avenue to get to the other section of Cortelyou Road to the subway station of same name, I’m almost about to cross when a dark-grey Lincoln-esque town car turns left on my green and doesn’t cede (as mentioned, in New York when it’s green for pedestrians, it’s also green for traffic. Who thought up that such a great way of creating stress and conflict?). A Mexican man, fairly well-built, in a black sleeveless puffed up jacket, well-bundled in variegated hoodie-esque layers (classic construction worker style), stands placidly in the middle of the zebra crossing. He lets the car pass, then gives it a good kick near the bumper with a pair of size 10 Caterpillar boots. The car slows. The pedestrian stays standing in the centre of the road like a gun fighter, turns to face the car. The driver wavers, leaves the engine ambling for what seems a long time, then guns the engine, and leaves. Wise move. The Mexican dude, post-kick, in no post-haste at all, then crosses the road and enters the shop on the corner.
I admire the way he doesn’t look back, even though the car could have stopped and the driver could now be coming for him, gunning for him: verbally, or literally. I admire his obvious ability to find an appropriate response to the moment. Beginner’s Mind. Samurai-style. Indeed, surely much of the stress of “modern” life is due to holding back when unleashing (in any of many appropriate ways) would best serve us and protect us, and aid in setting the appropriate limits of cosmos (cosmos being the opposite of chaos). Surely, too, stress comes from allowing our frustration out at the wrong / innocent person and in the wrong / inappropriate situation. I admire the way – I can see it in his walk, the energy-sense of him – that he’s already a duck, shaking the situation off his back. I know that if it had been me, Mr. Stress-Ball, “Mr. Over-think-it”, who’d kicked the car, or failed to kick the car, either way I would have sullied my mind with adrenalin for at least an hour about the first possibility, or self-directed anger for at least another hour about the latter, about having failed to kick the car ( – let’s be honest here!).
I know that if it had been done at a busy intersection like 6th avenue and 14th street in Manhattan, the crowds of pedestrians at the cross-streets would have instantly orgasmed at the sight of someone doing the right thing, in the right moment, so simply, so well.
So, anonymous Traffic Warrior – let me just say: Represent!