So I am walking down the Drive (as per usual) and I come upon one of of those little knots of Italian guys, shooting the shit in front of a cafÃ©. The way they do this is, they line up on both sides of the sidewalk, keeping up a lively conversation. People walking on the sidewalk haveÂ a choice: to walk through them, or to walk around them, off the sidewalk, and sometimes right off the curb. It always makes me feel kind of prickly.
Now men usually don’t even register this – they just walk through. But women, well, we know. If we walk through them, there is a way to do it – fast, with eyes cast down in front, avoiding eye contact. Otherwise – well, you don’t usually get harassed, but you most certainly get noticed. So I was walking down, preparing to skirt around them, and all of a sudden i thought, no, fuck it – i’m walking through them, and i’m looking up.
So I did – I just marched on. From both sides I got hailed – hey there! nice day eh? how’s it going! And I was determined to give it back, so I responded, something like I usually say â€“”oh you know, it’s going! up and down and sideways!”. The guys laughed, not in an unfriendly way – and one of them said to me, “oh you, you’re always walking down the street smiling, it’s that hippie stuff!” Which made me laugh, because that is true – the hippie stuff makes me smile. And also, I felt proud and oddly honoured, that he recognized me. And then, to be recognized as one who is always smiling, well – could be worse.
And that little interaction, which felt like a scene from a New York sitcom, did in fact keep me smiling for days.
When I told a male friend about the incident he said angrily, “oh those macho guys, i wish they wouldn’t do that, i hate them.” I flapped my hand and said “oh, no, i love those guys!”.Â On reflection, I doubt that I wouldn’t have said that before, but it just came out that way. And it was true, what I felt, in that moment – I did love those irritating guys. Interestingly, my Lo Jong slogan for meditation that week was “be grateful to everyone”.Â And it struck me, how before i confronted them, i only thought of them as annoying guys – and now I really was grateful to them, for pushing me to acknowledge them and face them – not face them down, but simply, face them. To respond instead of avoiding or reacting. I guess that is a way to walk the gauntlet.