I flew back from visiting the grandkids in Portland on Tuesday night, went to school to help lead the Halloween ceremony on Wednesday and then set off on Thursday morning to fly to Newark, New Jersey. I convinced my wife to arise early to get me to the BART Train to the airport by 7:15am and arrived 9 minutes before the next train was to leave. I decided to check some things on my computer while waiting. A train came from the other direction and its wind blew my hat off. I picked it up and set it on my knee and kept working.
The hat was a Spanish gorra that I had bought in Spain many years ago, one in a long line of hats that had to be replaced when I left them in movie theaters or restaurants or such. This one I had managed to hang on to for many years now and besides the sentimental value, I would need it for the cool weather I was heading into.
Immersed in my work, I was surprised when my train arrived, quickly stuffed the computer in the backpack, grabbed my two suitcases and went on board. I sat down and there through the open doors, spied my hat out on the subway platform. What to do?
If I ran out to get it, the doors might close and I would not only miss my train, but my luggage would go on without me.
If I had had the presence of mind to grab the luggage, go out and come back, I still probably would have missed the train and thus, the plane.
If I left the hat there, I would be grouchy for days and need to buy something once I arrived.
Of course, there was no time to sit and actually contemplate these choices. The situation called for immediate instinctive reaction. And so I placed myself one foot in the train and one foot out so that the doors couldn’t close and shouted to the 15 people seated in the car, “Can someone take my place here so I can run out and get my hat?” No reaction. 3 seconds later, someone was walking down the platform and I asked them to hand me my hat, which they happily did, while the loudspeaker voice was commanding, “Please steer clear of the doors. The doors are closing.”
And so I sat back down with my hat in hand. With not a single comment or smile or reaction from the people in the car.
Now the hat on the platform (good movie title?) had become symbolic of something larger. Why hadn’t anyone helped me? Or at least seemed glad that I didn’t lose my hat. I’d like to think that if it was a greater emergency, had I fainted on the floor or had a stroke, that people would have gathered around to see how they could help. Losing a hat is a pretty small deal, but the point is that I asked for help in something that was important to me, something really simple for someone to do (stand in the door or run out and get the hat while I held the door) and no one did. And then everyone pretended that nothing had happened.
That’s food for thought.