Empathy in a Downtown Sub Shop

Sitting in a downtown sub shop. A half dozen 40yo dudes — boots & jeans & beards & tattoos — pile in, trash-talking each other.

“I don’t wanna sit next to *that* retard!” says a guy in a knit cap. “You gotta pick your ‘tards!”

I take a deep breath.

Almost immediately, the dude with the biggest beard and most visible tattoos lowers his voice and murmurs something to Guy McKnitcap.

Guy listens. His body language changes.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” he says. “I know someone, too.”

There’s a pause, and the moment passes.

I pull out my headphones and catch Greatbeard’s eye. “That was cool. You were a good friend.”

From the clan, thoughtful chewing.

“Yeah, I gotta be more aware of my surroundings,” sighs Guy. “Like if I wanna call him *dickhead.*”

Greatbeard inclines his head, solemn and proud.

20m later, the dudes are getting ready to go.

Greatbeard strides over for a handshake. “Thanks for being patient with us.”

Guy McKnitcap is next. While we shake, he lifts his other hand, showing me a cane.

The boots and jeans and beards and tattoos leave together.