Screamed at in a train station

This afternoon I was standing in Suburban Station, waiting for a train that would take me back out to Germantown and my mechanic’s garage, when a man approached me.  He was dressed in ragged clothes and one of his front teeth looked as if it was rotting away in his mouth.

He said to me, “Excuse me sister, but I was wondering if you could help me.”

Before his sentence was totally finished and before I listened to what he needed help with, I said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.”  Now, normally I listen to people.  I let them talk to me before I make eye contact and try to honestly and sincerely turn them down.  For whatever reason today, I didn’t feel like going through the charade and so I said no without any preamble and without listening to his request.

And he got incensed.  He started ranting.  How did I know what he was going to ask me for, that he was just going to ask me for directions, not money, about how I just assumed something about him because he was black.

There were a bunch of people standing around watching as this man screamed at me, while I stood there against a column.  At one point I tried to clarify that I wasn’t turning him down and that it was more that I just didn’t want to be drawn into conversation, but he cut me off and said, “No, no, I don’t want to talk to you now.  I’ll ask somebody else.”

Chances are that he was going to ask me for money and this was his indignant act to trot out when someone didn’t let him work through his pitch.  It certainly felt like a solicitation for money.  And there was something imbalanced about him that he would scream at a stranger in a train station when she said she couldn’t help him.  But even knowing all that, it made me feel like a shitty, terrible, racist, elitist person for the next hour or so, until I was able to shake it off.

7 thoughts on “Screamed at in a train station

  1. Cugat

    Hmm, I think I know this guy. If it’s the same person then he does ask for money, but first he gets you to chat for a minute about directions and thanks you for acknowledging him because people around here aren’t very nice, and wow, you’re the first person who was nice today, etc. Then comes the money request, followed by the ranting. It’s hard not to feel like a douche but that’s the way he works it.

    Nice blog, btw. 😉

  2. Frank

    Screw him. No person, I don’t care if it was a CEO in a bespoke suit, has the right to invade your space. And if you don’t feel like talking, then you don’t feel like talking. I know who that guy is…and he’s a bad guy. I see him hitting people up for money near the men’s room.

    I’m glad you’re okay. Don’t feel bad about this…that guy is not one of the good people in this world.

  3. Colin Devroe

    He must not watch ForkYouTV or read your blog because then he’d know that you probably wouldn’t have any spare money to just hand out to a stranger. Did you ask him if he knew what an RSS feed was? 🙂

  4. Sparky Duck

    The thing that would have tipped me off to trouble was “sister” Reminds me of the women in the supermarket who told every person that she passed in the aisle that “Jesus will save you” You did the same thing I would have done

  5. Marisa

    Thanks for all the nice comments, guys. Cugat, that feels like exactly what he was gearing up to do. Sparky Duck, the sister thing was part of what tipped me off that this wasn’t someone I wanted to be talking to. Frank, thanks for the reassurance. Colin, you are very amusing.

  6. raina rose

    that guy sucks for yelling at you.
    a normal person would have said
    “i just need directions…” and then you may have given him directions.
    no one has the right to yell at you for that crap.
    i’m flying to philly to yell back at him!

    plus, i’m the only one who can call you sister!

  7. howard

    I don’t know. You have to appreciate a guy who at least takes the time to get to know you a little before he asks for money. Most folks these days are in such a hurry when they panhandle. I kind of enjoy when they bring something else to the table first. By the way, can you spare a ten spot?


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