1) I was riding the A train home from Washington Heights, where I spent a delightful Simchat Torah* when a raggedy man boarded the train. He began to panhandle, saying that he was in pain, hungry, thirsty, etc, and was a pathetic sight. I'm something of a bleeding heart, so I reached for my bag to give some change, when the man sitting across from me looks me right in the eye and says: "don't do it." I was understandably surprised. He then goes on to say that "You will just encourage him to do it again. It is illegal to give on the subway, you could get in a lot of trouble." I was wondering why he felt so strongly about this, when he said "I came from a very poor family and I made it, I'm not begging on the streets."
I proceeded to give to the poor man (as you know, Jews Love: Charity), and the guy across from me proceeded to stare me down for the rest of my trip. I am always conflicted about giving money on the subway. On the one hand, it is illegal, and doing so DOES encourage people to panhandle (in a way that is super-uncomfortable, you are in an enclosed space and can't leave), but on the other hand what if my $1 or so is what keeps him from starvation that day. Can I afford not to give?
2) I go to work with my roommate in the morning. We take the train together, because we are cute like that. This morning she and I were standing on the platform chatting with a guy named "Dovid." The train came and the roommate made it on, but Dovid and I did not. So, lucky for me (NOT) I got to spend my morning commute pressed up against a guy named Dovid. Awkward. And to make it worse, I was wearing pants**.
And because I promised: other tangentially related Jewish subway anecdotes.
- Jewish Blogmeister posted about the relationship between riding the subway and hearing loss.
- Even more exciting is the existence of a KOSHER SUBWAY (the sandwhich shop, not the mass transit) in Cleveland. Road trip anyone?
- Goldielox posts on her blog Subway Surrealism (ok so I am getting REALLY tangential) that she often has to qualify her ancestry as "Eastern European/Jewish" because stating the nationality really isn't enough. Although to be fair, the person who asked her was a cab driver in this case, but hey, mass transit.
**Wearing pants is a statement for a girl in the Orthodox community.