I woke up a little bit late today. Even though I work most nights until 2AM teaching students in Korea from my home office, I try to wake up early. I've always liked mornings best. The first thing I do when I get up is shower and get ready for the day. I iron my shirt and vacuum lines in the carpet. Then I make a pot of coffee and check the news. An ironed shirt and a good shave are essential to survival when you work at home, otherwise you can turn into a shite bag real quick.
So after my morning routine was finished I decided I needed a good mid morning meal. I drove to the store and got a whole bunch of groceries: so much I couldn't carry them in on one trip when I got home. When I was driving home, I remembered something I needed but had forgotten to pick up at the market. I saw a drug store and cut across two lanes of traffic and made a frantic left turn into the driveway. I went in the store and picked up a new plastic garbage can, the kind that if you press a lever with your foot the lid opens up. I figured that would make life easier and cleaner than ever. But while I was in the store I realized something I have not noticed before because I have so rarely shopped in the middle of a weekday--the only people shopping in middle of the day are older women. There were a few young moms pushing kids in strollers. But most of the women were middle aged. Their kids were either in school or grown. And they were picking through things I'd always wondered about, like crystal wind chimes and hair dye. So these are the people that buy that stuff. I would never know because when I go to the store at 8pm people are buying different things. They live different lives.
I was digging all these women and I could tell they were digging me. Not every day they see a 30 year old man strolling down the kitchenware aisle in a pressed shirt before lunch.
I guess that is all back ground information, a precursor to the real story. A little more background information: 1. I have spent the last two years living in Korea. I admire Koreans work ethic. That's it. No stories of bongo circles on the beach or an awakening to the evils of capitalism or a Buddhist enlightenment. I just admire the way Koreans work and study. And 2. That damn health care bill passed yesterday. It isn't the bill itself that worries me, it is that it reflects what I perceive to be an ever growing attitude in this country, my country, that we don't have to work hard for what we want, that it will be provided for free...it is owed to us, and slowly, I see men acting less free.
So this is where my head was when I was walking out of the drug store with my combed hair, my pressed shirt--holding a brand new white trash can that smelled like a new car. The woman walking a few paces ahead of me out to the parking lot, held her crystal wind chime. I felt connected to her some how because we had stood in line together--and that for me, recently anyway, constitutes a relationship of sorts. If for no other reason, she is American and I have wanted to be around Americans so often in Korea when there were none around.
A young man approached her. He was about 25, maybe younger. He wasn't a bad looking guy. He had a beard. Not a Charles Manson beard but a scraggly one. I knew what he was going to do. I started talking to him in my head, "Don't do it, man. Not to this woman. She is my mom's age. She wants to go hang up this wind chime on her porch. Let her be." I said this to the guy in my head but he didn't listen. He steped in front her and asked for some spare change for a bus ride. I sighed. She looked frightened and walked briskly away, wiggling her head back and forth.
Then he asked me but I said, "No, sorry. I really don't have any money." As I walked away though the situation started to get me going about everything: my country, kids today, my own complacency. I started to think about a society where youth beg money from elders and men need the support of women. I started thinking about the beggars I saw in Korea, who laid face down in complete humiliation--too disgraced to show their face in public--many of whom were missing limbs or were crippled with age. And then here, in my own city, a man healthier than I, in the prime of his life, asking for spare change for a bus. Who knows if there was really a bus. But as I unlocked my car I wanted a revolution to happen. Not a tea party where people hold signs but a revolution against all evil. The final retribution--Thy Kingdom Come!
I got in my car and watched as the young man asked more women for money. They ignored him but I could tell what they were thinking. It was the same thing I was thinking. Who will speak?... Who will speak?... I have to speak. My heart was admittedly beating faster than usual. I pulled out of the parking stall and cruised slowly over to where the guy was. I rolled down my window and asked him, "Hey, how much do you need for the bus?" He said, "Well to Seattle....at least a dollar seventy five."
"Come here, man." And I waved him over. I pulled out 5 dimes from my ash tray, "This is really all I have. But hey, don't beg money from these old women. Be a man. Get a job. Be a man. Okay?" I really meant it. "Be a man!" Are there any good men left today? To my surprise he looked ashamed. He hung his head a bit and said, okay man, You're right. Thanks for the money, I won't let you down. Who knows if he was just saying that or not. But I drove away feeling better. I had spoke and stood up for what was right. Why don't more people do this? Or do they? It was for me at least the start of a revolution, if only in my heart. "Be a man."