Wednesday, February 28, 2007

riding the rta

“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.”
-Michel de Montaigne, french philosopher (1533-1592)

at times I am just there - sitting or standing around, a stranger comes, I'll smile and nod a silent greeting, then next thing I know this perfect stranger is telling me their life story. this happened yesterday while I was waiting on the platform of the 117th street station waiting to take the train over to university circle. a woman came up to me, I did my usual thing - smile, nod - and the next thing I know she's launching into a series of stories that in the telling was so full of misfortunate and victimization my heart ached.

the quote by Montaigne led me to think about the woman on the platform. the events she told I'm certain are essentially true, but the sense of terrible misfortune she expressed in the telling didn't happen. reflecting on both of her stories (okay it was just two stories not a series - although I'm sure if we had been there longer it would have been a series) she was actually a victor not the victim. one story entailed being hit up for a handout, when she said she didn't have any money, the guy responded with some ugly, hateful words and these words made her feel threatened. she told me she believed she was going to be robbed. she sprayed the the guy with pepper spray and immediately called 9-1-1 on her cell phone. within minutes the cleveland police came, she told them her story, they began talking to the alleged mugger, she left and that was that. the second story entailed a court case and someone making false accusations about her and her life 'was hell' however in the end the case was thrown out of court - no harm, no foul, just a giant waste of time and energy.

this morning I'm feeling grateful for running across Montaigne's words and for the woman on the platform for I am reminded of an important lesson in life. although in the physical sense the woman was fine, she's not. the stories she embraced and shared with me, a complete stranger, were told with a sense of great misfortune. the woman on the platform found misfortune and victimization when she told me her stories rather than the strength and good fortune in the actual outcome of each event. yes, indeed a 'lesson' is there in the confluence of Montaigne's words of wisdom and my woman on the platform.

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