Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Good Karma and the MTA

I'm a believer in karma.

Here's an anecdotal reason why.

On December 31, 2007, I was headed home, looking forward to some quiet celebration time with family and friends.

It was 5:15 pm. Rush hour and the 34th Street Station below Greeley Square was hopping.

There was a street vender at the turnstiles, appealing to riders exiting the subway: "Can you swipe me through? There's no attendant and the machine won't take my ten dollar bill!" He was carrying a large black garbage bag filled with festive plastic hats and other New Year's Eve goodies.

I walked through the turnstiles after swiping my pay-per-ride Metrocard ($2.00 per ride, for those unfamiliar with our transit rates). The vender was appealing to people exiting the system, hoping he'd have luck finding someone who was utilizing an unlimited card, one that reset 17 minutes after usage. An exiting rider, assuming he swiped in more than 20 minutes earlier, could swipe back in and let the vender through, at no additional cost.

I stopped at the top of the stairs and thought, "What the hell?" I headed back to the turnstiles and swiped him through, taking $2.00 off my card. Not something I do very often, if at all, for a stranger.

He was very grateful, thanking me profusely and ranting about how there was no attendant and the machine wouldn't take his ten and no one would let him through and he rembled on, walking down to the platform with me.

He thanked me again and said, "Here. What color you like?" He was offering me a plastic Happy New Years hat (that sell on the street for more than 2 bucks, usually). I tried to defer but he insisted, so I said "blue" since that was on top, and I didn't want to sound picky (all the while thinking there would be a scuffle at home between Jolee and Shayna if I showed up with only one hat.

I didn't swipe him through because I thought there'd be a free hat in it for me. I did it because it seemed like a good way to end the year and I felt good about helping out a fellow New Yorker.

We all took turns wearing the hat New Year's Eve and Shayna even wore it a little New Year's Day.

I wasn't going to share this story because, although nice, it's not that extraordinary.

Except today, I was headed home and at the same turnstile, I had my Metrocard out, ready to swipe. I noticed the display said "OK" and then went dark even before I had a chance to register the message.

I pressed against the metal bar, expecting to be stopped. But I wasn't. I passed through, with a complimentary ride, thanks to a glitch in the system.

It was Fate repaying me my gesture, or so I choose to believe.

Perhaps we can all take a moment out of one day a week, or a month, or a year, even. And do something kind for a stranger.

In the end, I got my ride back. And a blue hat. And a hearty, earnest thanks from a fellow citizen. And, hey, I even got an extra post to share with the blogosphere.

Happy New Year, indeed!


Micah Kelber said...

Great story Bill! I love things like that...


Eric Valentine said...

Beautiful story Billy, I had a similar experience many years ago with a senior in a grocery store.

Thanks for reminding me of that pleasantry one more time. All the best for 2008. :)

Pranayama mama said...

Hey, I found you from following a link from Eric Valentine's site (above). Such a great, feel good story!