In The New America People Get Slapped For Doing This

In July last year, I was feeling groggy from Cyclobenzaprine and Naproxen that I’d taken to treat my neck spasm. The muscle-relaxant and anti-inflammatory pills often helped except for the drowsiness that accompanied them. Although my wife had suggested that I avoid grocery shopping fearing the weariness might get too overwhelming, I followed on with my decision for there would not be time the rest of the week. I knew I’d be somnolent only if my body went into inactive mode. So, I was alert for the entire duration: the train ride to the store, grocery shopping, then back to the station with the cart.

I’d found a seat near the door when the train left the Square station. My destination was Port Station with Grove in between. The total travel time wouldn’t exceed ten minutes. Though my eyes were shutting from the drowsiness, I heard the sounds of the door slamming shut, footsteps of people as they moved between train cars, when an old man flipped the pages of his book, and the constant clickety-clack of the train wheels. I was aware that I coughed softly a few times.

Though I was too dozy to cover my mouth, I was certain that my mouth wasn’t open while coughing. (Wish I was alert enough to use my hands.)

At the Grove station, a group of people boarded the train, followed by a middle-aged man. The train wasn’t crowded, but all of the seats were taken, and the man was left standing. He was wearing a green shirt and black trousers. I closed my eyes and let out a couple of soft coughs, my mouth still closed. Within seconds, I heard a sound barreling toward me from my right where the man was standing. “This is sick. You should cover your mouth when coughing.”

angry man

I turned my head to glance at him. He was a short man whose face turned a tinge of red that I thought meant intense dislike for me. I told him, as my eyes were shutting again, that my mouth wasn’t open and that I was drowsy from a muscle relaxant. This explanation – that I hadn’t needed to give – didn’t satisfy him, and he came at me more aggressively. “This is America. You’ve no idea what you’re doing.”

None of the people who were sitting across from me uttered a word, which sort of vindicated me because they could see that my mouth wasn’t open. I told him again that my mouth was closed throughout.

He said, “I’m so sick myself and don’t want any sickness from you.”

Now: he looked sick.

I was not sick.

My discreet coughs were perhaps from a can of chilled coconut water I’d drunk at the grocery.

I said, “I should be more concerned about catching something from you.”

“In the new America, people get slapped for coughing like that on public transport,” he retorted.

I grinned at him – my eyes won’t close for a while now – as I stood up to exit at Port. My 6’1 frame, as I walked by him, perhaps forced his mouth shut. Only silence thereon.

What I figured out later was that he was livid that even a grocery cart had found a space near the seat. He wanted to take his anger out on someone, and I happened to be the non-white guy he found a punching bag in? If he’d asked me, I would’ve given him my seat (I always offer my seat.)

In more than a decade of my life in the US, this was the first experience of its kind.

I am apolitical, but was as much against Hillary Clinton’s alleged deleting of thousands of emails as I’ve been against President Trump’s fear-mongering rhetoric. The day James Comey testified before the Senate that the President had asked for his loyalty, the following happened in the Union Square on 14th Street in Manhattan.

Blocks of dry ice emitted fog that drifted away.

I was a mere witness and didn’t know what to make of this. For some, it meant Trump’s ephemeral longevity; for others, it was a protest against his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.

But, let’s not forget that Donald Trump became a president because he had the required electoral votes, although the FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling in America’s election is ongoing.

In the new America – yes – anything can happen. Since the new president took office, we’ve heard a few incidents where non-whites, especially Indians, were targeted, resulting in deaths, too. So, I decided to go back to my kickboxing routine.  For self-defense. And if the man walked the talk next time, I should be ready.

But, my punching bag will remain a punching bag. I’m non-violence personified.


19 thoughts on “In The New America People Get Slapped For Doing This

  1. I have to applaud you for the level-headed manner in which you dealt with the man. You could have stood up and gave him your seat, but you were under no obligation to unless asked which the man clearly didn’t do. What you described was a very clear case of ‘Us’ vs ‘Them’ – and honestly I wonder what his problem was. Sometimes some of us just want to pick on someone based on first impressions – that feeling of superiority is what feeds the egoistic, true maniac side of us.

    It seemed like the other commuters didn’t bat an eyelid. It begs two questions. Perhaps they are just fearful of such confrontation and don’t want any involvement. Or on the other hand they might recognise that the man was being ridiculous and don’t want to be associated with him. Didn’t sound like you were afraid at all given that it’s not something that happens every day these days to you. That said, anything like this can happen anywhere, and it does not hurt to have some kind of idea on how to deal with these kinds of situations, mentally, physically and emotionally.

    • I think they were fearful of the man in question because he was not showing any signs of letting up. He was fearless vocally, continued to blabber, and kept mum only after I got up to exit. “That feeling of superiority is what feeds the egoistic, true maniac side of us” – well said. And I thought he was too brave for his size and his courage perhaps stemmed from a supremacist-in-the-making conditioning?

      Thanks, Mabel, so much for your time. Much appreciated 🙂

  2. I think the kickboxing is a good idea. Good lord. So glad we live in Hawaii. I swear, since Trump’s election, the zanies have crawled back out from the rocks they hid under when we elected Obama. I long for those days, not that he was a perfect President, but he was human. And humble. And Hawaiian.

    FYI, this is how I stay sane in the world of news. My friend, former longtime NPR host Neal Conan’s new show: So sane and well informed.

    Love Mabel’s comment as well. She’s always level-headed and deeply thoughtful. Aloha.

    • I’ll certainly visit Neal Conan’s new show because I want to stay sane 🙂 Thanks for suggesting.

      Yes, Obama commanded respect – his tone and tenor was more presidential. His conduct, gentleness. Not that all of his policies met with success, but he tried.

      And it’s a conjecture that the man in question belonged to the ruling party. Perhaps he’s as apolitical as I am. Interestingly, I hoped – really did – to see him again. Now I don’t remember his face.

      • Yes, strange like that. Guess the experience was meant to pique your senses for whatever reason – which it clearly did. I do believe we are the throes of massive change in an Aquarian Age kind of way. The Old Guard will not go down easily. Old white men have ruled the world for too long. But they have not been proven to be good caretakers of the planet or of the collective. Understatement.

        When you go to Neal’s website, check out the podcast on The Gerrymander. The election might not have been rigged as we might have thought, but it surely was gerrymandered. Scary stuff.

      • Time magazine wrote a cover article about how the former President knew that hackers from Russia were targeting American voting machines, successfully altering voter rolls and stealing private data in the primaries. All of the agencies came together, devised an effective plan, were vigilant on Election Day. And there was success.

        At that point however, nobody thought DT would become the president. Though the focus was on HC’s emails, many thought we would have our first woman president.

        Now: GOP gerrymandering? Isn’t it some cracking and packing? Scary stuff indeed. Will check the website. Thanks, B.

      • Yes, have heard of the hacking scheme. And yes, gerrymandering. Both parties have done it, but it is now seriously impeding the ability for either party to win a fair election. Things are escalating. And Neal’s shows are so needing to be heard. I would never be as well informed otherwise. Too much crap to sift through. Aloha

  3. hey M – well I know the story so I felt all in the loop here – ha! and the vid too – right on amigo – and now off I go to check out a few more of your posts – TTYS

  4. There is an ugly and overt racism uncanned by the current president, one that counters the hope for reconciliation and civility I felt when I first heard Barack Obama was to be our new president.

    Try living in a county stuck in the center of red country where 74.6% of registered voters voted for Trump – but you didn’t!

    I’m sorry you were subjected to verbal aggression in a public place, and I, sadly, feel you are wise to renew your kickboxing skills. This is not the America I love.

    • Thank you, Doug, for your kind words. Much appreciated.

      “…one that counters the hope for reconciliation and civility I felt when I first heard Barack Obama was to be our new president” – is so well penned.

      The Trump-era may be a battlefield where non-whites involuntarily embrace negativity and pessimism. After the above incident, I’ve been careful and cautioning others – to prepare and be battle ready in the “most non-violent way.”

      This too shall pass. Thanks, once again 🙂

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