This morning, I ran for the one entrance on the train car that takes me to the seats where you can sit facing forward, because I don’t like swaying side to side or riding backward. As I ran up the the opening doors, I saw an old hobo who had apparently been standing there before I got there. I nodded to him and gestured for him to go first. He said, “No, you go ahead.” I said, “No, that’s okay.” Then he said, “You go first. You’re a working man. You get priority.” I wondered how long we would play this “After you,” “No, after you” game and if we would miss the train, so I just said, “Okay, but it’s fine, really,” and got on the train.
I wondered about what he had said. There was a little part of me that felt proud to be a working man and sorry that he seemed to be a homeless drunkard. But another part of me felt that the old man had sensed my impatience and was being a better man than I. It made me think about class, manners, and respect for the elderly— even if the elderly person in question looks drunk and smells bad. I mean, it wouldn’t have hurt me to insist that he go first. It wouldn’t have hurt me not to run up to the train car doors like it was so important that I board right then and there. There are moments when “working man” is just another term for an immature moneymaker who’s rushing around like his life is more important than everything else around him. I don’t want to be that guy. And that’s what they old hobo taught me today on the train platform.