Dan and Alaina paid us a visit recently. I love visits to our New York home. I love taking friends and family into the city and playing the part of the guide. On this particular night it was just chilly enough for a light coat, and Luke was at the wheel trying to find a parking spot. After the usual 30+ minutes, he and I had, impressively (to us), kept our cool AND found a spot we were 95% sure was legal (I think Dan and Alaina were impressed, too). Good start to the night.
We began the walk to one of our favorite dinner spots and we were feeling the good city vibes. The buzz of action was all around us and we took in the people and the sights. I felt like I was showing off the great city of New York, in which I wasn't born, but have been a frequent visitor this past year; in which I still feel like an outsider, but have become somewhat comfortable; in which I've gotten lost many times, but know my way around fairly well now, for a non-native.
We walked along with countless others, paying little attention to anyone until we approached a busy intersection along with two other girls who were acting a little odd, a little jittery. They were dressed in black, one taller and one shorter, the shorter wore spiky boots and cropped hair. The taller called out to her as she began to walk straight out into oncoming traffic, ignoring the don't walk sign. "No, wait! Don't do that!" but the shorter one was already in the street. We heard shouts and horns as she was struck by a bicycle deliveryman who then nearly fell into the path of a speeding yellow taxi. It was one of those things you never want to see, so you just wait, cringing, not knowing what will happen next. Somehow both individuals managed to stay on their feet and avoid contact with moving vehicles, but as she came stumbling back towards her friend on the curb, she was laughing. LAUGHING, while the deliveryman stood with his bike off to the side, traumatized, surely having just seen his life flash before his eyes. It was a terrifying series of events, but what followed was even more shocking.
I recently read a New York Times article about NYC food deliverymen on bicycles, just like this man was. Every day is dangerous for them. I read that many receive a base pay of about $30 a day, plus tips, but could be ticketed at any time for riding electric bikes which are banned in New York (but are by far the best means of working efficiently). I read that they work 10+ hours a day, 6 days a week, and that every night wealthy New Yorkers in fancy Park Avenue flats receive takeout deliveries from them and tip minimally. I recalled all these things as I watched what unfolded next.
At the intersection, the walk signal finally flashed and everyone began to cross, relieved it was over and all parties were okay. The girl who stepped out into oncoming traffic turned suddenly toward the deliveryman, who hadn't moved, and kicked his bike with her spiky black heel. She yelled obscenities at him and, in a final fit of rage, she threw her drink on him. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was all I could do to sputter "What are you doing?!" as she stormed away.
I looked at the man on the bike. I saw the liquid covering him and the bewildered look on his face. "That was not your fault," I said. A man behind me told him "We all saw it! She walked out right in front of you!" I was so angry. We kept walking and found ourselves just behind her and her friend for the next three blocks. She was laughing again, and I was imagining all the different ways I could potentially hurt her. Luke knew; he said "Margaret, she's messed up. She's on something." You could tell by the way they were walking. I heard the taller one say "That was the most hilarious thing I've ever seen in my life." All I could think about was the deliveryman and the drink soaking his coat. She had no reason to throw her drink on him. My heart was heavy with the scene: the man, the article, the drink, and this girl who was perhaps drunk or on drugs and had just come close to killing him.
I couldn't stop thinking about the man on the bike for a long time. I replayed the events and pined over whether or not I should have said or done anything more. The opportunity has passed, but maybe I did all I could humanly do at the time: to share his burden. And maybe, just maybe those who are burdened need only for someone to come along and carry part of the weight.
Beautiful blog post about bearing one another's burdens.
The Bible talks about sharing each other's burdens, too.