My Inconvenient New York Moment


I had an inconvenient experience at Briarwood Subway Station today. I recorded, the booth number was N337 and it was around 11am.

I arrived in New York from Indonesia for an invitation from the United Nations. I was speaking at one of the event at the UN Building on 7 June 2017. This morning I came to Briarwood station and approached the N337 booth with a question “excuse me Sir, do you have a daily ticket?” for I wanted to spend my last day in New York exploring the city. I needed a ticket that will enable me to move around all day. I came to this city ten years ago for the first time but I don’t remember much about the transportation system. Being a newly arrived visitor, I don’t remember if there is a daily ticket or not. That’s why I asked.

The man in the booth looked at me as if he is looking at a suspicious man or even a criminal. With no smile at all and with an impolite stare, he said, “what do you mean? We don’t have a day ticket here. We have rides.” I started to feel uncomfortable. I understand his explanation and I can accept that there is no daily ticket. But I have a problem with the way he explained it and the way he stared at me. I am an Asian looking person from Indonesia. I am not sure if that has something to do with the way he treated me.

What made me even more uncomfortable was the way he told me as if I am a kid. He went, “we have rides here. One ride, two ride, three rides, four rides, five rides, six rides” and he went on with an angry voice. I did not understand why. He did not need to explain to me that detailed. I understood already. He then went on “we have no day ticket, no two-days ticket, no three-day ticket, no four-day ticket, no five-day ticket…” exactly with the same tone and stare. He looked like an angry man. Constantly! He has a problem with his life, I think.

“Okay, give me a five-ride ticket, please.” I tried to answer him with patience. Honestly, I started to feel angry also. I started to stare at him. He stared me back and as if he would like me to stop doing that. I did not stop and kept staring at him. I wanted to send him a signal that he did not treat me well. It was a psychological war and he tried to show off his power. Of course I would not buy that and I kept my stare at him. He started to feel uncomfortable and probably started to realise his mistake. He just realised that I was not somebody that he could look down easily. FYI, he is quite senior African American man, probably close to 50.

After he gave me the ticket and the change, I said, “may I say something?” “Yes” he said. Now, with a lower tone. “You are impolite, Man!” I said with a look into his eyes. Clearly he did not see it coming from me. He was a bit surprised but quite. I could feel that he realised what happened. He did not say a word and kept looking at me and I did the same. “This is not the way you treat people. I just arrived in this country and I needed help. Why don’t you just explain to me in a more polite way?” He was still quite. I am not sure what in his mind was. “I will report this! I will file a complain!” I said with confidence and energy, also a portion of anger. He could certainly hear it from my vibrating voice. That was the first time he stopped his stare at me. He looked at other spots.

“What is your name?” I asked him with a low voice, yet assertive tone. “Well Sir, we don’t give names here.” Now he called me “Sir”. Interesting. “Okay I will report you. I cannot accept this treatment!” He started to look at different places and I know he felt uncomfortable with that. “You know what, you looked down to people and that is bad!” I said it with a strong intonation, staring at him with deep anger. I did not take my eyes off him and I kept my stare. He did not apologize or anything but clearly he was a bit worried. He did not stare at me anymore and I stepped backward with my eyes focusing on his face. He started to do something else to ease the awkwardness. I let a man move to a place in front of me to be served. He is a new customer and I don’t want to disturb his journey.

I took some pictures for my document, just in case I will report the man, even though I am not sure if I will put myself into hassle reporting this small incidence. Now I know, New York can really surprise me!

New York City, 9 June 2017

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Author: Andi Arsana

I am a lecturer and a full-time student of the universe

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