Tuesday, February 21, 2012

After class on Friday I walked down to the Powell Street Bart station to catch the train back to Oakland. Because of some construction at the station, the ticket kiosk, a twenty foot long box, was closed on one side so there were only three machines, and three long lines to get a ticket. Usually I just swipe my Clipper Card at the turnstiles but there was no money on it, and I resigned myself to standing in line. It took about fifteen minutes to get to the front of the line, listening to the chatter of some high school girls behind me and observing the odd trio two spots ahead of me, slotting money, coin by coin into the machine. It would of been easy to get annoyed but I was mostly done with my week, and had accepted the fact that it was going to take a little longer than usual.

When I got to the front of the line, facing the machine, a man stepped up to me, a foot away and asked if he could, "real quick, get change for a dollar." He was a little thuggy, but also a little dirty. His dollar bill was pretty crumpled. I didn't get a good look at his face but I was determined not to let him go ahead of me, and said no, and turned back to the machine. As I got out my debit card and swiped it, he stood there and cursed me: "mother fucking faggot ass little bitch etc. etc. etc. faggot mother fucker fuck you etc. etc." I punched in my PIN, swiped my Clipper Card, saw that the dollar total was correct, "faggot little bitch fuck you bitch mother fucker fuck fuck etc. etc." hit accept, swiped my Clipper Card again to get the money on it, "fuck you fuck you fuck you etc. etc. etc." and put my debit card back inside my wallet, and walked to the turnstiles.

As I was walking away I heard him ask the high school girls behind me the same thing, but didn't hear their answer. It was scary, not knowing exactly what this guy was going to do but I don't think he was crazy, and merely wanted to avoid standing in line. To get change or maybe to get a ticket I don't know. Either way, I stood there and absorbed the abuse. I could almost viscerally feel his hate washing over me, but it didn't feel scary. Instead I was focused on my routine, not rattling but moving slowly and deliberately. There was almost something kind of peaceful happening in those moments. Once I got free though, free to think about it, through the turnstiles and down the escalator, there was a train waiting. I hopped on relived to get away, thinking about what just happened, feeling the adrenaline in my system and a little bit of pride.