Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Lower Locker Man

This morning, as I was getting dressed after my swim, an older black guy, a bit bigger, in a giant blue overcoat, came into the locker room and began to rant. He said (or yelled softly, depending on how you see these things) to no one in particular "Why they all gotta use the upper lockers! If you gonna store stuff, why not use the lower lockers?! They gotta be payin' off management to keep these lockers full! In my old place, all these locks be cut already!"

He continued ranting, to no one in particular, while I and the three other guys in the room smirked and looked at each other but did not answer him. As he finished ranting, his last few sentences were spoken with a smile ... not that I saw it, but sometimes when someone says something while they are smiling, you can hear it in their voice. At this point, some other guys in the room started joshing him, and you could hear the smile getting bigger. That is how this guy finished up. He knew he sounded a bit silly, but was enjoying being a character, and I believe, enjoying the fact that everyone else was enjoying his rant.

And that is one of the things I love the most about this city. Its not that we are the only city in America with characters, because everywhere has characters. And its not that the characters are so colorful, although that is also something to like and dislike about New York. Its that the people in this city love their characters ... from the well-known ones like the naked cowboy (who is an ordained minister by the way) in Times Square or the mysterious egg cake lady who used to work on Mosco street (I actually went to find her when I first came to NY but she has apparently been retired for some time), to the less well known ones like the crazy comedy guys who give impromptu performances in the subway (mostly on the West side) and the old hispanic dude I periodically see riding the 5 and singing, loudly, in Spanish, drawing smiles and giggles from the whole subway car. Or the crazy lower locker man, who rants loudly but humorously about some problem we all know is not real, just being funny and goofing around with people he does not know.

There is a lot to both like and dislike about this city, and maybe I am being naive and people actually hate the strange folk who populate so many parts of New York. But generally it seems people just go with the strangeness and enjoy it, and to me that kind of positive response to the off-color, bizarre and unique characters shows a tolerance and humor in this city that is something to be proud of.

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