Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Sunday, August 20, 2006
What "diss" Means
Boarding the Washington Metro on a sweltering summer Sunday for a trip to the Eastern Market for brunch. With trains running only four times an hour -- itself a revelation after Germany's well-served mass transit networks -- the train is crowded when it finally arrives. There are four seats available, though, so we are happy to sit down. One seat has a young man's papers on it, which he moves so one of us can sit. Another seat has a rumpled newspaper lying on it, which my son picks up to move out of his way.

"Hey, man, keep your hands off my stuff!" the young man on the seat next to the newspaper barks.

"Oh, sorry," my son says, and sits in a nearby seat, putting the newspaper down.

"Don't mess with my property, man. Ask me to move it and I'll move it. You mess with my stuff, you disrespect me!" the young man bellows. "Don't disrespect people's stuff!"

"Okay," I say across the aisle, sternly. "He's just a kid and he said he's sorry. Let it go."

"Just tryin' to teach him some manners, is all!" the young man shouts at me. "Just tryin' to teach him some respect."

"Okay," I say back, loudly. "We get it. He gets it. Let it go." I stare at him and he meets my gaze briefly and then looks away.

We ride in silence for several stops. There is a tense silence among the others on the car. As the train approaches a stop, the young man gets up. He stands a few feet away, waiting for the train to stop. I feel him staring at me. I look up and briefly meet his eye, then look away. He is standing without holding on, his arms curved outward and fingers twitching like a gunfighter about to draw his six-shooters.

"Just so you know," he bellows as the train pulls to a stop,"we're gettin' stronger and smarter every day. Every day. Every day, man!"

"I don't know what that means," I say quietly. "I just think you're making a big deal over a piece of newspaper."

"Just keep your mouth shut," someone behind me mutters. To me or to the other guy? To me, I think.

"Well maybe you should find out!" bellows the young man. "Cause we're gettin' smarter and stronger every day!" The train stops and he stalks off.

There is a collective drawing of breath as the doors close. Several people around me meet my eye and smile faintly, shaking their heads.
posted by The Suit at 7:36 PM 0 comments