As I sat on the train for my morning commute to work, I observed as I often do people coming in and out, reading their kindle, nextbook and other tablets as well as newspaper, books and magazines. Three stops into the train ride an Asian gentleman in mid to late 30s came in and sat on the three-seater directly opposite me. He sat down, put his head back and closed his eyes. Periodically with his eyes still closed he would move his feet back and forth in a heel and toe motion.
As we all waited patiently for the people to finish boarding and the train to continue its journey a man of African descent, early to mid-40s boarded the train with a newspaper in his hand. He sat down on the side seat next to the Asian man. He turned slightly to the right to accommodate his long legs, as he adjusted himself some more, the newspaper fell the same time the Asian man rocked his feet back and forward as a result the Asian man's left foot pinned the newspaper to the ground. Oblivious and seemingly unaware of the distress his foot was causing he remained unknowingly uncooperative. What happened next would rock his world and shock me.
The man of African descent tried to pull the paper, as he tugged the Asian man with his eyes still closed again rocked his feet back and forth. It almost seemed as if the Asian man was playing with the other man when truly he was unaware. The man of African descent attempted to pull out the newspaper but was not fast enough as the Asian’s man left foot descended on it again pinning it down. Frustrated the man of African descent pulled hard on the newspaper and it ripped. He became angry and picked up the broken newspaper and slapped it across the Asian man’s face. The blow was ineffective because the Asian man didn’t make much movement. The man of African descent seems to get angrier because his blow didn’t elicit a response. He then with lightning speed retrieved the newspaper, folded it and slammed it into the Asian man’s face. The Asian man jumped up with an outcry as passengers simultaneously gasp in shock horror.
The Asian man cried, “Why you hit me, what I do.” The man of African descent got up and walked right, to the end of the train car. He paced back and forth as the Asian man continue to ask, “Why you hit me.” The man of African descent said nothing but his body language dared the man and anyone on the train to do something about what they’d witnessed. He then walked slowly back toward the Asian man his back straight, shoulders squared and his eyes spat fire as if to say, “touch me, retaliate, I dare you.” As he neared the Asian man he deliberately slowed his footsteps and puffed out his chest. The Asian man seeing this look sat quietly, his poster angry, his eyes in disbelieving shock as he watched the other man walk slowly to the opposite end of the train car.
The Asian man kept looking down to his left and asking in a low tone, “what happen, why he hit me?”
The Filipino woman that sat next to me on my right answered. “He was angry because your foot was on his paper and when he tried to remove it got ripped.”
The Asian man looked at her and said, “Paper? What paper? What you mean?” She again tried to explain but he was in too much of a daze to comprehend what she was trying to say.
For the rest of the ride the Asian man kept shaking his head. At one point he closed his eyes as if to sleep but I could see he was visibly upset because his face at times would turn red. Other times he would his nose and squeeze as if the held back tears. I felt bad for him and even felt my own tears. Periodically throughout the rest of the commute he would open his eyes and look to the left where he last saw the other man went and he would shake his head.
I thought, ‘God have mercy, how things could just visit upon us with absolutely no provocation and then you are left to deal with the consequences, the emotional and psychological impact,’ because make no mistake that moment, that experience has changed him forever.