I witnessed something very interesting this past weekend on the subway. I was on a packed train and there were not enough space for everyone to sit. There was a man sitting on the end of the bench closest to the door, and there was a tourist with a backpack standing next to him. It was a little bumpy, and like I said, it was pretty packed, so the woman's backpack was in the man's face a little bit. While I would assume most people would feel a little uncomfortable about something being in their personal space but get over it by rationalizing that it's bound to happen when taking public transportation, this guy was getting irritated and kept pushing the woman's bag. She had no idea he was doing this, but finally he got her attention and gruffly told her that her bag was in his face. She apologized and tried to step away (couldn't go too far though). I watched the whole thing and I kept thinking how rude and unnecessary it was of him. I thought that he could have put up with feeling a little uncomfortable for a few minutes given the situation. Plus, he had his music on loud enough for the people around him to hear. I became a little angry. I felt like telling this man that he shouldn't scold others when he was being inconsiderate himself by blasting his music. But then…
Emotions are quite fascinating. You can feel a certain way one moment and the complete opposite next. Emotions are also conflicted. As the saying goes, things aren't often simply black or white. And this is what I grappled with on the train that day.
Feeling annoyed and slightly resentful of the mid-to-late twenty year old beside me, my perception of him muddled to confusion in the matter of seconds as I watched him dig a dollar out of his pocket and give it to a man sitting on the bench parallel to ours that appeared to be homeless. I had hardly noticed the man. My new New York eyes have quickly learned to turn a blind eye to the dozens of homeless people I see on the streets daily. The homeless man was just sitting there on the subway, no empty cup in his hands begging for change, and here the young man that seconds before I deemed an uncourteous ass just voluntarily offered him some money.
While I have experienced a wide range of emotions in my day, I don't know if I've had an experience quite like that. Of course I've had changing opinions of people over time, but never one so rapidly–not to go from being irritated by someone to thinking they're kind, but more so being in a limbo in which I don't know whether or not to classify someone as a generally good person or bad.
After those few short minutes on the train, of course I cannot make the assertion whether the guy who yelled at a woman for accidentally bumping into him one moment and gave a poor man some money the next is a good or bad person, but I think it just goes to show that we shouldn't write someone off so quickly.