These are scary times. But even as the rhetoric from the White House gets falser and crazier, I’m hopeful. I was moved to tears by the enormous gathering that filled Central Park West from Columbus Circle to 67th street the night before the Fake President’s underwhelming inauguration. And I was beyond moved – stunned, really – by the mass movement of cars and buses down I-95 early Saturday morning; by the commandeering of half the men’s room at the Maryland House rest stop by women in pink pussy hats, aided and abetted by a middle-aged, white, male security guard; by the lines that snaked around the parking structures at the Shady Grove metro station; by the spirit of cheerful cooperation as we made our slow way through the outside line, then the inside line, then onto the train; and, of course, by the Women’s March itself.
I’m also finding hope in small acts of decency that show how different we are from the Fake President’s dystopian vision. This morning, I took the S79 bus from Bay Ridge to Staten Island (I was chasing a rare duck reported at the Moravian Cemetery there). Bay Ridge is Brooklyn through-and-through, but it’s most definitely outside the “Brooklyn bubble” (while Staten Island is, well, Staten Island), and the passengers on the S79 reflect that. They’re mostly tired working people and retirees, with the occasional birder in running clothes thrown into the mix. Directly ahead of me in the line to board (there’s always a line to board) was a thin young man in a suit that didn’t quite fit him, nervously smoking a cigarette. He looked Yemeni. We boarded, filing into our seats: an older Latino man and the probably-Yemeni man filled one row, and I slid into the row behind them.
Somewhere on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano, the young, probably-Yemeni man turned nervously to his seatmate. He took out an address, pointed at it, and asked/mimed for directions. He didn’t have much English, and neither did his seatmate (though the older man had the advantage of knowing the bus route and the area). I leaned in, because I’m a busybody, and because I was proud of the vast knowledge of Staten Island I’d acquired over these last several months of birding Richmond County. Staten Island University Hospital? Hey, I know that place! (Mainly because a flock of wild turkeys inhabits the grounds.)
Except, as we figured out in a mixture of Spanish and Arabic – the young man was in fact Yemeni – the hospital on Seaview is the North Campus and his appointment was on the South Campus, and that was going to require a change of buses for sure, but neither his seatmate nor I could remember which bus it was, or what the stop would be (I was looking for answers on my phone, but my own stop was coming up, and how was I going to give directions in my never good, now almost entirely forgotten Arabic?), when another passenger, a rumpled not-so-young white guy in a medical smock, spoke up:
“South Campus? That’s where I’m going. Sit with me, I’ll take you there.”
At Midland Avenue, I said “ma’a as-salama” to the Yemeni guy, he shook my hand, and I thought about how strangers on a bus used three languages to help someone the Fake President doesn’t think should be in this country get to his destination.
And how that’s the way it should be.
A couple of postscripts:
First, I was overwhelmed by the reaction to my last post, on the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to all of you who read it, thanks even more to those of you who shared it. You’ve got me thinking about how to use this blog to talk about things a little bit bigger than running, food and birds.
Second, I did manage to see the Barrow’s goldeneye at Moravian Cemetery, and a bonus female painted bunting at Arden Beach. That makes 72 NYC birds so far in 2017.