marginfades

The joy of movement. Words. Food & memory.

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The Fairy and The Businessman

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Another Halloween’s come and gone, and I still clearly remember last year’s eager trick-or-treater angling for another fistful of candy.

“Do you mind if I take another?” she asked with conviction.

Hers was a simple yet clever costume: a pair of fairy wings much too large for her frame, and matching eye shadow, plus a smear of you’re-far-too-young-for-that-color lipstick.  She was the older of the trick-or-treating duo – and as I looked over her diminutive companion, I realized they looked far too much alike to be anything other than sisters.

Her hand was already reaching for candy bowl, after rooting through with swift, practiced thoroughness to retrieve two handfuls of the treats that she preferred – the first for little sister, the second for her.  I was indignant yet amused: this winged sprite, no more than 8 or 9 at best, knew exactly what she wanted.  She treated herself to as much as she could scoop up, single-handedly.  It was no more than others had taken, and no less than I expected.

She smiled with her lips and watched carefully with her eyes – and came in for another handful during my moment of hesitation.  Another two, actually: another one for her younger sister, and then for herself.  All the while a smile, and perfunctory expressions of thanks.

I stood there staring, wondering whether I was indignant at her presumption, or in awe of her deft negotiation.  Both, I decided.

A neighbor who witnessed the entire encounter remarked that “those people” came into our neighborhoods because “they” couldn’t get candy in their own neighborhood.  My retort was that at least she dressed up and asked politely for what she wanted, and got it.   There were costume-less teenagers from our neighborhood who simply held out trash bags, zombie-like, with an expectation of candy.  I half-wished I had turned away: shouldn’t I get the treat of seeing a costume, no matter how haphazard or simple?

And I still had enough candy for the evening – just  far less than I expected.  If everything my neighbor perceived about this little girl were true, then she was doing her best for first her sibling then herself with the best tools and circumstances she had – and doing so with a certain panache.  In the end, I reflected that the only problem I had with the situation was her precocious panache.  I didn’t expect such social dexterity in a child so young.

If she wields it well, she’ll go far.

***

A month ago, I found myself in a crowded security line, waiting to take a plane home.  Ahead of me was a woman: short, neatly attired, with no sense of glamor.  She looked careworn, yet stood ramrod straight.  Behind me was a businessman: at least 6 foot in his height, suited, cool demeanor.

We each emptied our belongings into bins and onto the conveyer, and the woman ahead of me and I moved back a few steps to take our turn through the detectors.  The businessman moved straight to the detector, and went through, after a brief backward glance at the line.  It seemed in that moment he realized that he’d jumped a line that he was unaware of: a quirk of his eyebrow acknowledged us, as if in apology.

But he went through.  And no one stopped him – not the woman in front of me, and not I.  It only struck me after he went through that perhaps I could have done the same.  And yet, my politeness and social consciousness kicks in.

***

For context, understand that each of these situations lasted at most 30 seconds.  They’re mere moments in time, hardly enough for the average person to react and redirect the course of situation, especially where strangers one will never encounter again are involved in interaction.

What I will remember about the airport a year from now is that the businessman went through anyway, with a spur-of-the-moment, implied apology.  What I will remember about the young trick-or-treater is her boldness.   Each presumed, with a certain politeness and poise.

Social conditioning and thought-leaders suggest that I will remember the trick-or-treater long after I forget the businessman because of her gender, her race, her age.  He’ll be admired for doing as he should; she’ll be lucky if she’s not judged as grasping and aggressive.

Written by marginfades

November 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm

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Slow Motion

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In our fast-paced life, I wonder if recreational rail excursions will gain popularity – such as the cross-country Amtrak trek Meg Keene recently embarked upon to promote her first published work (she shared the last leg of it with her husband, and they both enjoyed the experience.)

Travel by train’s never been America’s thing – road trips have.  Train journeys are more European, and even Asian – in fact it’s said that third-class rail travel is the only way to really experience India.

It’s a gem of brilliance that Bhi Bhiman chose Samuel Jeffrey’s point of view – primarily, from a train berth’s window, occasionally run in slow motion – to accompany the plaintive melody of his ballad Gutternsipe. It’s not at all how you would experience a train journey: picking up speed, scenery and people eventually pass you by.  And it’s not at all India, where time doesn’t stop.  

Perhaps that’s why it’s an important backdrop to this song – without any sense of home, Bhiman seems to find it in the moments in between a boy skipping along an empty line and each stroke of a the sweep’s broom.

Written by marginfades

May 12, 2012 at 7:57 pm

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