Practicing Bravery While Riding the NYC Subway

Riding the train to work this morning, the dude sitting next to me decided to use the pole as his foot recliner while conversing with his buddy. I only noticed because I felt a slight shift of energy with mild tension filling the train cart. It caused me to glance up from the book I was reading (oh, so you want to know what I was reading?! Sure – it’s called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz – get it!! It’s very insightful) and saw the “crime” that was taking place.

As I scoped out the scene, I noticed that there was an elderly man sitting across from us, appearing to be very concerned with my neighbor’s choice of turning the pole into his temporary foot rest. You can tell he did not approve of the behavior because there was judgement spewing from his eyeballs as he grilled him down … Hey! I’m not letting myself of the hook here because I too was also judging this brazen gentlemen sitting next to me.

I shook my head, rolled my eyes, and let out a deep exhale. Didn’t he realize that he was putting his dirty shoe onto a poll that people held on too? Wasn’t he aware that children would be holding onto it, spinning wildly around it, only later to use those same hands to touch their faces (and most likely others faces too)?! It then occurred to me that he was completely oblivious to what he was doing because he continued to chat with his friend, foot up on the pole as if he was the only one riding it (the train).

That’s when it occurred to me that a lot of people live their lives in a fucking bubble; going through their day on autopilot, not thinking, feeling, or being present. Shit, I’ve done and still do that! Then I realized that none of the passengers eyeing him suspiciously said anything. No one (including myself) managed to say “excuse me sir, but, um, can you please be more considerate and get your (dirty) foot of the pole? Because, well, people hold onto that thing”. Why didn’t I speak up then? I was over here sitting next to him, boldly judging him in my mind, rolling my eyes, and yet I couldn’t even have the courage to make a comment about something I believed was “wrong” or rather, an inconsiderate and selfish gesture.

I didn’t say anything for a multitude of reasons. The first was because I didn’t want to disturb the peace nor create some unnecessary drama. Secondly, I didn’t feel like it was my place to say something. Who am I to tell this grown ass man how to act in public? I wasn’t his parent nor did I have the authority to tell him what he should or shouldn’t be doing. And lastly, I was simply afraid.

Afraid to risk feeling embarrassed.

Afraid of conflict.

Afraid of getting attention because I’d be the ONLY ONE to speak up.

Afraid of being judged.

Afraid I will offend someone.

How many of us feel this way on a daily basis? How many of us are scared to speak up for the fear of being judged or ostracized? I know I battle with this all the time. And in my mind, I’ve created a narrative that reads along the lines of “I might offend someone if I speak up” or better yet, “they’ll look at me like I’m a bitch and won’t like me!!”. So in addition to being judged, I also have insecurities about not being accepted or liked.

Today, I kept my mouth shut. Today, I let fear rule despite wanting to say something to this very inconsiderate man. But the next time something like this happens, I’ll try to be a little bit more brave and make a comment.

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