I had only been on the trolley for about 2 minutes when I felt someone standing next to me. Like, not just a “Hey, there’s nowhere to sit so I have to stand here by no choice” stand, but a purposeful “please look at me” stand. I could see in my periphery that this person was facing me, so I slowly looked over and saw this small Asian woman, perhaps in her 40s, looking at me expectantly. OK, not a guy with a machete. That’s good.
I thought at first she wanted my seat, even though the trolley was far from full. I thought this because this has happened to me three times, by the same old man. Three times he got on the trolley, stood all up in my PS (personal space for those who don’t know trolley lingo; just kidding, I just made this up right now because I didn’t feel like typing personal space so instead I typed it two times with about 100 extra words to go along with it, why do I do this to myself? Better yet—why do I do this to YOU?). So this old man who’s usurping my PS peers down at me with the creepiest intensity and taps his finger on the back of my seat. When I ask “Would you like to sit here?” he exclaims, “Oh thank you dear!” Like I came to this decision on my own and wasn’t pressured into it. But you know, I’m a sucker for old guys and even though there were empty seats, I stood and let his ass sink into the ghost of my PS.
Second time, same thing. Third time, I was already up and moving before he even made it to my seat. So fucking weird. Just pick a seat and sit!!
Anyway, I thought for sure this was happening again and I started to feel insecure, like, what is it about me that oozes the impression I’m warming this seat for you?
I was bracing myself to move, but then she started thrusting a $5 bill at me and was going on in broken English about the fare, and I was able to figure out that she needed dollar bills since the fare box thing only takes exact change. She opened her hand, showing me that she had the fifty cents, but she still needed $2.
(It’s here I will note that she passed up at least 6 people and the motion of the trolley practically jettisoned her straight toward me. For as many times as Christina called me standoffish, I sure must seem irresistibly approachable to strangers.)
As luck would have it, I actually moved my wallet from my regular purse to my work bag-thing, and as even more luck would have it, I actually had exactly two dollars in there.
I NEVER CARRY CASH!
I handed her the two dollars but kept thrusting the 5 at me until I realized she wasn’t going to take my money until I took her $5, like a lopsided trade.
“Oh no,” I said. “You don’t have to give me that. You can just have this, it’s totally fine.” I pushed the cash into her hand.
So she slowly took my money, took a step back with her hand on her chest and made a strangulated inhalation of shock.
And then, I’m not bullshitting you here, she started to CRY.
“Oh thank you! Thank you! It is my first time riding this!” she sobbed loudly.
I had an acute awareness of EVERYBODY ON THE TROLLEY watching this. A quick scan for a hidden camera confirmed that yes, pretty much everyone was watching. OMG plz stop, I silently willed her. Oh god, I hate being looked at!
She pulled herself together and went back up to the front of the trolley to pay and then took a seat across from me. She quietly analyzed a map of the trolley routes for the rest of the trip into town and I went back to playing Simpsons: Tapped Out, eventually forgetting my brush with humanity.
Twenty minutes later, right before the trolley pulled up to my stop, the lady got out of her seat, approached me and put her hands together in a prayer-pose. Then she started BOWING and said, “I appreciate you! I appreciate you!”
My god, lady! I smiled nervously and insisted that it was fine, but part of me wanted to get my phone video-ready and then say, “Oh no really, it’s fine. But hey, can you go ahead and say that one more time so my boyfriend will see that I actually helped someone? He is definitely going to call bullshit on this one.”
Of course, we got off at the same stop together so I walked slightly slower than usual so that we wouldn’t be awkwardly walking up two flights of steps with each other. She kept going straight as I crossed the street to The Law Firm and I MIGHT have smiled about the whole thing. Maybe just a quick flash of a smile.
Later that afternoon, I Have Good Karma For No Reason Amber came back from lunch with all these sauce samples and chips from Qdoba.
“So they have these new smothered burritos and I just asked if I could taste one of the sauces, and the guy me these samples of all three sauces PLUS a free bag of chips!” she practically BRAGGED. “For like, no reason!”
“Wow,” I deadpanned. “It’s almost as if you had given some poor Asian lady trolley fare today.”
Oh well. Who needs FREE SAUCE when I have these warm Good Samaritan feelings to dip my chips in. That didn’t make sense. That lady took more than $2 from me. I think she took some of the ice around my heart too and it’s got me all messed up. I want to go help another person now.
[ed.note I wrote this on my phone, half-asleep while Henry is driving us to Carlile, PA. So if it is even more typo-laden than usual, well, there’s my excuse. Philly tomorrow!!]