Late afternoon meeting. Location: Cross town.
83°F. Mid August. Sticky. Cotton dress shirt is clinging to my chest.
Take a Cab? Rachel suggests it’s 15 minutes point to point on foot. Cab? A crap shoot in cross town traffic.
I hoof it down 47th. Building construction has cut the sidewalk in half. 2 lanes, with a solid lane divider. No passing due to heavy oncoming traffic.
I’m closing the gap with a middle aged man in front of me. His head is down tapping on smartphone. My pace slows to crawl. I cut the gap to a few feet.
I try to pass on his right. Not enough room. I slow and trail behind him.
What’s the rush, right? Breathe a little.
He hasn’t lifted his head. Inconsiderate SOB is still tapping out texts. Oblivious to the growing conga line behind him.
I attempt to pass on left. He leans left. I re-grip the handle on my bag and prepare to side-step him on the right.
As I begin to pass, my shoe catches the back of his shoe, his heal crumbles, he stumbles.
I look back and see that’s he’s upright. Good.
“Sorry? Sorry? You’ve ruined my shoe!“
The Walk Sign flashes and signals Don’t Walk. I stop and he advances. Along with the gathering conga line.
“I said I’m sorry“
“Do you see my shoe?” He’s walking on top of the back of his shoe.
I’m rifling through my options:
- Option A: Get in his grill. Level of immediate satisfaction: HIGH. Downside? A potential bad outcome. Side Benefit: Provide ample entertainment to the crowd.
- Option B: Apologize for the third time. Level of immediate satisfaction: ZERO. Probability: LOW.
- Option B+: Apologize for the third time + offer a monetary concession. Level of immediate satisfaction: NEGATIVE. Probability: Grrrrrrr.
- Option C: Walk away. Take the high road. Level of immediate satisfaction: LOW. A low fat, low calorie ice cream bar.
The crowd continues to build. I look down. He’s fussing with the back of his shoe. The light is about to change. He’s still mouthing off, and approaches…
when I became tough as a nail
I became a nail
~ Jim Harrison & Ted Kooser, Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry
Photograph by Vitaliy Piltser