A New York Story

In Life on January 30, 2015 by thebetweenthoughts

So that last entry went down a path of unexpected melancholy…apologies. A man can’t be held responsible for what he types at 4:45 in the morning at an airport terminal.

As recompense, I’ll tell you all a little story:

I was waiting for the M34 bus on 34th and 7th after work a few months ago, when I saw a man approaching me. It’s never a good sign when a stranger starts walking towards you in New York – we’re all used to operating in our selfish little bubbles and if someone choose to break into that bubble and ruin the social pact that you’ve made with all other New Yorkers, it generally means they want something from you (sign a petition, money for a “bus ticket”, information on how much the specials are at the Japanese restaurant you’re standing in front of [true story!], etc.).

Now, I feel like I need to describe the man approaching me and the reason why my “crap, I need to put my headphones in” warning sign started to flash. He was of the Jewish variety…and although he never stated as such…he wore the general accoutrement (black hate, curly hair, etc.) that I associate with the stereotype in my mind. This really isn’t an important fact now, but the rest of the story may confirm and refute any stereotypes you have in your head right now.

I had just finished work, so I was dressed in full business attire (suit, tie, laptop bag)…which I guess made me a likely target for his opening question. “Do you work at Goldman Sachs?” I have a few friends that have worked at Goldman Sachs, I’ve seen employees in the media…they’re really just like you and me. So, I’m not really sure what he saw in me that made him jump to the conclusion that I work at Goldman. Wishful thinking, maybe? And I could see the disappointment in his face when I responded with “No, I don’t work at Goldman.”

Stranger Danger: “Do you work around here?”

Me: “Nope, don’t work around here.”

Let’s be honest – there really isn’t any direction that this conversation could go that would be positive for either of us. Yet, he still chose the path that went resulted in the worst line of conversation.

SD: “Wow, you speak really well?”

Me: “What?” (In a tone that clearly conveyed “quit, while you’re behind buddy”.)

SD: “You speak really well.”

Me: “Why would you assume that I wouldn’t speak well?”

SD: “I’m just saying that I’ve never met someone like you that has spoken well.”

(So it’s obvious at this point I should just stop engaging with this person. There is nothing to gain from this…and we’re moving closer and closer to a point where I’m going to have to tell my friends that I spoke with a racist today. Not there yet though…)

Me: “Never met someone like me? What does that mean? What do you think I am?”

SD: “You’re Mexican.”

(And there’s the racism.)

Me: “Excuse me? No.”

SD: “Native American?”

(Where’s the fucking bus???)

Me: “No.”

SD: “You have to tell me. I’m really curious now since I’ve never met someone like you that has spoken so well.”

(Really? This is the point where you feel like compounding the racism. Not only have I been misidentified, but the intelligence of the race of “whatever I am” is being questioned. Bonus points for this guy.)

Me: “No.”

Thankfully as this point I can see the bus, so it’s only going to be a few more minutes with this guy. What else could he say that would be more offensive?

SD: “You have to tell me.”

Me: “It’s just going to be one of the great mysteries in your life.”

The bus pulls up and I start walking towards the door…and he continues to follow me and to pester me with questions on my race. Since, obviously, I need to be catering to his thirst for knowledge about ethnic identity.

Finally I break down…

Me: “I’m Filipino.”

SD: “So I was right. You’re Latino.”

Motherf*cker…if it wasn’t for the shock that I had at that statement, I probably would have punched him. I won’t get into the finer details about racial identity and ethnic origins, but just to set the record straight – Filipinos are not Latino. He’s probably the only in the person in the world who would disagree with that fact, but I just wanted to put that out there.

Ah…New York. You never know when the stage is being set for memorable story.

(So how’s the stereotype I mentioned earlier holding up? Does my story confirm or refute your own biases?)



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