I picked my sweetie up last night at 7:00 p.m., coming off the commuter train from Manhattan.
Unusually, he said, “I have something I need to tell you. Let’s sit for a minute.”
He had been walking through Grand Central Station, (also called Grand Central Terminal) to catch the 6:20. GCT at rush hour, if you haven’t experienced it, is a very crowded place, people rushing, running, slipping across the weathered floors, skittering crazily down the steps to get to their train on time.
It’s become a lot worse in the past year because so many people, selfishly, stare into their Blackberries or Ipods or Itouches or phones while they walk — imperiously expecting you to see them coming and, as if they were royalty, step aside.
Tonight, my sweetie, a man of medium height wearing a pale winter jacket, barely brushed a stranger’s left sleeve as he walked past. The man, a Caucasian, middle-aged, casually dressed, not visibly drunk or high — recoiled with a hugely exaggerated motion. When my partner tried to politely move past, the man leaned into his path, then stepped in very, very close and, shouting at the top of his lungs, said: “Don’t push me!!!”
My partner, a Buddhist who has been in many tense news situations as a photographer, including a war zone, said calmly but firmly, “I didn’t push you.”
The man was, he said, so close he could have spat into his gaping maw as he shouted even louder, with scared bystanders watching: “Yes, you did!” Then ran away.
After a 40-minute ride, my partner was shaken and still deafened. The event was so quick, there was no time to call police — GCT is filled with them, and with uniformed soldiers with sidearms. Where were they?
I, too have been the victim of sudden, vicious verbal violence, both in public in New York, and when I worked retail here, which sped up my decision to quit that work.
In both instances, he and I could tell that our attackers were quite probably mentally ill, Who knows the real source of his volcanic rage — his marriage ending? A terrible diagnosis? Being out of work for years?
As much as we feel compassion for people so tortured by their own demons, these encounters are truly terrifying and left us both shaken for a while afterward. Both of us were badly bullied by strangers when we were younger, which has left its own deep scars.
Whoever the next target is, I hope it’s not you.