Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Wait, I don't get it...

I'm not remotely embarrassed to admit I always skip over the poetry in the New Yorker (if that's what you can call it...). But the Talk of the Town section is almost always one of my favorite parts of the magazine. Its short commentaries on various goings on are generally amusing, interesting and easily consumed on a subway ride or during a lunch or commercial break.

But one of the pieces in this week's edition, Dept. of Small Talk, Crosstown Bus by Alec Wilkinson, riled me. The author sets the scene by writing that a "young black man in bluejeans and a white T-shirt," has gotten on a crosstown bus. Wilkinson continues the description: "He wore a black brimmed hat, with earflaps that were pulled down over his ears despite the heat. He was thin to the point of being scrawny. His narrow shoulders swayed as he walked up the aisle. He had a large gold chain around his neck. His teeth were slightly bucked He took a seat and looked around, smiling. Clearly he belonged to the tribe of extroverts." Yeah, either that or the tribe of meth users.

Wilkinson goes on to describe how this young black man tried to strike up a conversation with a "young Latina woman" listening to her iPod, but she wasn't interested. He persists. She's not rude, but still not interested in chatting. He keeps talking, still, she just wants to listen to her music in peace. And that's the whole of the story.

So what's been reported is the tale of a black man who knows not how to dress for the weather and who either doesn't understand or doesn't accept bus etiquette, and his "funny" encounter with a Latina woman who owns an iPod.

I'm sure I must have missed something here, like what it was about this scene that made it worthy of description. And if someone can explain this to me, I'd be grateful...


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