Could You Spare a Moment of Your Time?

21 Aug

As I approached the subway entrance she came into sight.  I was heading straight toward her with no defense, nothing I could do to stop the inevitable.  The brightly colored pamphlet in her hand, I was helpless against her cheery early-morning smile and well-rehearsed speech just waiting to be unloaded onto my already annoyed ears.  As I walked closer, I tried to look away, maintain eye contact straight ahead, avoiding her at all costs.  I tried to pick up the pace, act like I had somewhere important to be (I did actually…it’s called work).  I tried to position myself awkwardly close to the person in front of me so that she could not possibly target both of us, thus throwing him into the fire and getting away unburned (and without a pamphlet).  I was mere inches away from her now, and very much aware that no one that had come before me had escaped her grasp.  My body tensed and I made a lunge for the subway stairs leading underground, waiting for her spiel to be unleashed upon me.  I was in the thick of it now, right in her line of fire.  Shit.  Shit.  Shit.  No way out.  And then, miraculously, I was past her, without so much as a hello or excuse me.  She had skipped me altogether, for which, yes, I was grateful.  Yet once beyond her, I could hear as she lured the middle-aged man behind me into her invisible flyer lair, and then the lady behind him, and the one behind her.  The words “Special Election” floated through the air as I made my way underground, and I was suddenly completely aware of what had happened.

I look young, due mostly to my height, or lack thereof.  And my work environment is pretty casual, so on a normal basis I am not jazzed up to the nines at 9 AM, polished to perfection with heels to boot.  I do not, however, consider myself to look younger than 18, and thus it quickly became very clear that this woman skipped me simply due to my age, and the voting tendencies within my age group.  She ignored me completely, assuming that as a young individual, I most likely don’t care about politics and wouldn’t be voting in any special election that was important enough to her to be flyering to the ignorant masses at 8:45.  I understand that MTV’s Rock the Vote campaigns, among others, haven’t always been the most successful, but I also know that young people today do care about the government, and do want their voices heard.  For every person my age that could give two shits about voting, there’s another who cares immensely.  You never know which one you are going to encounter, dear pamphlet lady, so who are you to discriminate and discern who gets the pamphlet?

Am I a registered voter in the state of New York?  No.  Would I most likely have thrown the pamphlet away without so much as skimming the title?  Probably.  But she didn’t know that.  As far as she was concerned, there was just enough of a chance for me to throw away the pamphlet as the 45-year-old woman two people back from me on the sidewalk.  When you sign up to annoy pedestrians and hand out unwanted papers to people rushing to get to work before their morning cup of coffee, you sign up to target everyone on the pavement, regardless of race, gender, and age.  This is America, goddammit, and we all deserve the chance to push your hand away and tell you we’re not interested.  If that’s not why our ancestors sailed to this great country, then I honestly can’t say why any of us are here.

Next time I see that lady on the corner, if she ignores me again, perhaps I’ll pivot and ask her directly for one of those dearly important pamphlets of hers, just to prove a point and shake up her outdated notions about the jaded American youth of today.  I’d like to see her face when I approach her, and not the other way around.  And then of course I’ll throw the pamphlet away once I turn the corner, and then proceed to pummel people on my way down the stairs to make my train.  I do have places to be, after all.  Clearly I have no time to waste on pamphlet ladies and whatever causes they have to share with me.  Unless of course we’re talking about saving the rainforests.  Now that’s a cause worth a pamphlet grab.

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