Can anybody help?

22 Sep

I was troubled by something I saw while waiting for my train today.

In the NYC subway system there is a lot to be bothered by (look here for more details). I have been taunted, poked, and puked on, and yet I still hear more horrifying stories and am thankful that my experiences haven’t been even more disgusting. However, today, while waiting at a very congested station, I heard someone yell a phrase that has been following me throughout the day: “CAN ANYBODY HELP A PREGNANT MOTHER?!”

The voice, at first sounding very masculine, reverberated through the intersecting tunnels and were hurled back at me. I assumed it was a man shouting, possibly with his pregnant wife or girlfriend. It seemed odd that someone would be shouting on behalf of someone else. Hunger is usually a very personal experience. There is no room for partnerships among the subway residents. I searched for the owner of the voice and found it to be the pregnant woman herself. She was a lot older than was to be expected and look ghost-like. Her voice, so booming, had reached me from another platform, as if she was standing just a few feet away from me. I stared at her for a prolonged period of time, unashamed of my glare, as she was too far to notice. I was trying to make sense of her.

She continued down the platform. Though she was still two tracks away from me, I grew scared as I felt her voice get closer. She repeated the same phrase, “CAN ANYBODY HELP A PREGNANT MOTHER?!” Adding on to it, “WHO IS PREGNANT. AND HUNGRY.” As she continued on her march, everybody turned to look at her, and no one was giving her money. This led to my continued stare. Eventually everyone’s eyes were on her and we were all frozen. Something about her yell made us all embarrassed. Embarrassed for her and embarrassed for ourselves.

But why were we embarrassed? Why weren’t we throwing money in her cup? I believe it was due to a variety of factors. For one, it was the sheer spectacle of the thing. She was being disproportionately loud. Her large, husky voice was ringing throughout the space, making it all seem like a show and not like an experience we were supposed to take part in by donating. I think it also had something to do with her appearance, unfortunately. She did not LOOK pregnant. And as we all know, seeing is believing in this day and age. Show us the belly and the sonogram and we will show you the money. It sucks. But that is the reality. She also looked a lot older than you would expect and I feel like a lot of the other viewers were trying to figure her out. I know I was. It did not matter that she was actually very hungry, it was the lie that she was possibly perpetuating. Was she actually pregnant? People did not want to participate in the lie.

In the grand scheme of subway occurrences, it was a non-event. Nothing extraordinary had happened. A woman was hungry and she was asking for food/money/anything. She was possibly pregnant and was letting us know. Begging us to help her in her condition. This happens all the time. What was haunting about it was the volume. She was loud because she was desperate and her situation was dire. Wouldn’t we all yell if we were that helpless? If we were totally dependent upon the kindness of total and utter strangers? Wouldn’t we not rest until we had food if that was all that was standing between us and complete starvation? I would.

Well anyway…sometimes you post about farts and sometimes shit gets real.

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