One of the best parts of running my own business is that I rarely have to commute during the busiest time periods. I generally avoid the trains packed with commuters or too loud with teenagers. A recent Thursday was an exception.
A couple of stations after I boarded three high school boys entered the train. They sat in a manner that selfishly occupied more space than they needed, and conversed in a volume that selfishly included everyone in their profanity laced conversation. F-Bombs and N-Bombs flowed like some of the crap that passes for hip hop these days.
Had I been listening to my mp3 player, I might have just cranked the volume, and swallowed my tongue for the next four stops. Had they not been wearing gear from my high school alma mater, I might have tried harder to ignore them.
From my position, I only had to rotate a few degrees to face the “Alpha” of the group.
“I know you” I began in a tone that older black men get to use with younger versions of ourselves when they’re “acting-up” and know it. “Yeah, I know exactly who you are. You’re fake-tough. You see, I can tell by the way you speak – pronouncing your G’s a little too carefully, dropping an SAT word here and there – I know you’re not really tough. I know that you sprinkle your expletives from some desire to sound how you think tough kids sound. It rings especially fake considering your private school uniforms… from a place where I was a student 20 years ago.
“I went to school with guys like you, hell I even tried that fake-tough language once or twice. But now’s the time you really need to stop, not just because you embarrass yourself and our school with all this phony and foul language around little kids and women. By the by, it might fool some of the people into thinking you’re not fake-tough, but not me. Nah, you need to stop now because fake-tough only leads to two things: trouble at home and school, and getting your ass kicked because you tried your fake-tough routine with someone who’s actually tough.
“So let’s just quit this whole farcical charade, shall we.”
I could see the adrenaline and decision making in his eyes – his pride was wounded and he possessed no easy retorts. I had no regrets about my message or its tone, I do wish I had said all of it in a more private manner, giving him the option of a more graceful surrender before his friends. To make his decision easier, I finished with “You know I’m right, and you should also know that I have your football coach and principal on my speed dial.”
The trio exited two stops later. On their way off the train, the “Alpha” made some vaguely insulting comment about my suit being “busted.”
A woman who was standing not too far from me and had witnessed the whole interaction leaned towards me and said “some lessons are hard to learn.”
I laughed a bit before replying “He learned the lesson alright; he might have said my suit was busted, but notice that he didn’t curse when he said it?”