Talking to Strangers (on the L.E.S.)
Thanks to local resident, writer and Lo-Down reader Barbara Becker for sharing this recent post (and video) from her excellent blog, Beyond Siri. It’s called, “Talking to Strangers,” and just goes to show you never know who you might meet here in the neighborhood:
“You did not talk to her,” my 9-year-old said incredulously.
“Not only did I talk to her,” I retorted, “I asked if I could videotape her.”
I had just run into the woman my son refers to as “Goooo Vegan.” Our local post office has incomprehensibly long lines, and those of us waiting our turn were getting pretty grumpy. Clerks and customers were being snippy with each other, people were talking loudly on their cell phones, others were cursing the wait and the whole darned US Postal Service.
Then Goooo Vegan jumped out of her place in line and started singing and dancing…
If you like animals, please don’t wear or eat them…
They don’t want to cry, be slaughtered or die…
It’s pretty hard to shock New Yorkers, particularly those of us living on the Lower East Side and East Village. But I swear to you, people’s jaws were hanging open.
I had seen this woman singing on the subways, and once on line at the bank. She likes to hand out booklets promoting a no-meat, no-eggs, no-dairy lifestyle. I could see why my son might wish to avoid her tactics, but I kind of admired her for being so bold. While I had simply smiled at her in the past, this time I was determined to talk to her.
I followed her out the post office door and onto the sidewalk. “Hi, I’m Barbara,” I said.
“Oh, Barbara” she said, “How are you?” as if I were a long-lost friend.
“I liked your song,” I said lamely.
“That may be the last time I sing it in this neighborhood,” she said.
She told me her story – how she used to live around the corner, but was forced to find a home elsewhere. There were a few factors, but the one I remember was that her landlord had given her vegan dog roast beef. So she was moving to East Harlem, and she was visiting the post office to close her box.
I felt a little homesick for this cheery woman. “Would you mind if I taped you singing?” I asked.
“Oh Barbara, I’d love that!” she gushed. And without any further prompting, she launched into her little Go Vegan ditty.
By now you know I have this little vow to myself to try new things. Big things and small. Get outside my comfort zone. Be a little bolder. Talk to strangers. And I’m thinking now just how grateful I am that I stopped this stranger on the street. Because maybe, just maybe, that was my very last chance.