Red Line Redemption


An interesting series of events on the subway today:

I was at Davis station waiting for the redline inbound. There was this really cool old man playing some soulful blues harmonica. He played it through this little amp so it had a cool crunchy distortion effect, and he sang from a powerful and emotional place. I loved it, and I spent my wait for the train happily watching his moving performance. I noticed the clearly labelled and obviously placed tip box in front of him. We clearly shared a moment where he observed I was enjoying his music. He was singing a song about being broke, the lyrics repeatedly claimed “I got no money”.

If I didn’t tip, I would be an asshole. A down-right villain. It would be a flat-out sin not to offer him something for a performance I was clearly enjoying. It was pretty much theft.

But I didn’t have any cash in my wallet. The train pulled up. I stepped right by him and I felt his righteous indignation burning in my wake. He again crooned into the microphone, “I got no money”. I sat down on the train and glanced in his direction. He was looking right at me, right into my eyes. He stopped playing. He raised his hand to his forehead and made an L shape. Without breaking the beams of judgement connecting his eyes to mine, he tipped his hat down to sever our communications completely. I had no room to offer him a justification, he didn’t care. I had inexcusably broken a code of human decency.

The train barreled towards the city as I reflected upon the events. I felt bad. I don’t enjoy being the villain, like everyone else I like to pretend I’m the good guy. There were 5 stops left til my destination, but I disembarked the train. I couldn’t just ride away having committed this atrocity. I had to fix the err of my ways.

I found the closest ATM, the smallest denomination it offered me was 10 dollars. I entertained interrupting his playing to ask him if he could split a 10. But that would just be, in no uncertain terms, utterly asinine. The ATM spat out its green-died atonement, I shoved the money into my pocket and boarded the subway heading back outbound. The train arrived at Davis, he was still there.

I had a friend who was waiting on me downtown, I didn’t want to be late if I didn’t have to. As my train pulled into the station, the inbound train again pulled up on the opposite side. It was right across from the opening of my doors, and the blues man was in between. I had to make this quick. I got off the train, I dropped a 10 dollar bill in his tip box. Relief surged over me. I had proven myself. I had passed the trial fate had fortuned my way. Our eyes met. In a soulful and approving voice, a beam of auditory light in stark contrast to the velvety dark shades he had just crooned, he said “You da man!”.

I boarded the train. The doors closed. I rode towards the city a man redeemed.


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