Friday morning I took a workshop with Susan Messing (what what cool what!), and I left feeling pretty happy. It was a beautiful day, I had just gotten my improv on, the only thing standing in the way of a fun weekend with my dad was this last bus I was waiting on to take me out of the loop.
Milling about was a small gathering of folk. Like at any bus stop in the city, the crowd was diverse. One such bus-stop-waiter was an elderly man (late 70s? 80s?) with long grey hair and a grey beard. He wore an ugly shirt and khakis that were pulled far above his waist. Because he was elderly and had an elderly body, his gut pooched out awkwardly. He was zoned out.
Just then a double-decker tour bus stops on the corner. I look up at the people, and I feel immediately uneasy. A woman is literally pointing and laughing (more smirking I guess) at the odd-grey dude. She taps the teenage girl in front of her. The girl shows her dad. I don't know why this bothers me so much. I look down in a mini-pre hulk sulk, and we I look back up, the girl has her iPhone out, camera ready, as her parents excitedly grin. Next thing I know, someone is saying in a very harsh tone, "Hey. Don't do that." And then I realize it is my own voice. Oy vey.
And I continue, "That's not funny. That's a person."
The girl--who I realize is wearing a "Miss Teen--" something (I couldn't see the rest) sash puts her phone in her lap and shocked, looks to her dad. The dad gives kind of a "give me a break" eye roll--but it's covering a sincere coat of...what is it...fear? I think fear. The mom pretends she isn't even part of the family and looks away. And I've just scared to death some family who was out celebrating a pageant win.
The old man noticed none of this. The tour bus pulled away, and mine came. I felt like a hero and a villain. I turned it all over in my mind. Does it matter if we make fun of strangers? How could I have been kinder? Could I have been? What was it that gave me power over three people I didn't know? How is it I genuinely scared them? Is it because ultimately we are all most scared of being "wrong"--of being a "bad person"? It had little to do with me a lots to do with shame? Seeking answers.