Friday, August 20, 2010

Down These Mean Streets

Stepping out into the mean streets of New York can be dangerous business. And I’m not speaking of getting mugged or becoming another crime statistic, which, while possible, is a long shot in a pretty safe town lorded over by the admirable men and women in blue. No, the danger I speak of lurks in the seemingly benign shadows, where unpleasant and unpredictable urban scenes await unsuspecting eyes.

Today, it was my unsuspecting eyes. While simultaneously running a few errands and accumulating invaluable walking time, I set my sights on Ewen Park, a rather steep grassy knoll that separates tony Riverdale from Kingsbridge, its less pedigreed neighbor. Approaching the traffic light directly across from the park, I came upon an elderly woman loudly berating a younger woman on a bicycle, who was planning to cross the same thoroughfare as me. “You don’t belong here!” she screamed, meaning on the sidewalk, I gathered, because the bicyclist responded, “I’m very careful.”

But this oldster was far from done in speaking her piece. Getting increasingly more apoplectic as the seconds passed, she eventually screeched, “I hope you get hit by a bus!” This rather vicious sentiment prompted the bicyclist to remove the baseball cap she was wearing, revealing a bald head and the telltale signs of cancer treatments. “I have cancer,” she offered, essentially imploring this ranting and raving old woman to put a lid on it and be on her unmerry way. But this plea for sympathy and a little understanding fell on deaf ears—both literally and figuratively, I think.

This ugly encounter turned downright surreal with the next toxic volley: "You can go to hell with your stupid bald head." As the bicyclist began crossing the street when the light turned green, the fusillade of vitriol continued, even as growing distance separated the two. “I hope you get raped in the park,” the old coot bellowed in her last shout, prompting the bicyclist to give her a flailing smorgasbord of well-earned one-finger salutes.

Having bore witness to this sideshow, the air was completely sucked out of my morning constitutional. I tried to imagine how this woman afflicted with cancer must have felt like in the wake of this bizarre encounter with a senior citizen, with a woman who wished her brutalized, and even dead, for the egregious transgression of riding her bicycle on the sidewalk.

I think the most unpleasant component of this city street snapshot was the individual’s state of mind. She just didn’t quite appear to be mentally unhinged, which could have at least explained her rabid performance. She seemed to be, first and foremost, a very mean person turned several notches meaner by the sands of time. But I don't really know. As for who really should get hit by a bus…well, nobody, of course.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.