A DAY OF MANY MILD AGGRAVATIONS

I would never trade places, but some days you just really wish you were a straight white dude.
  1. After catching up on my reading at a favorite coffee spot, I gather my things and leave to meet my friend at a salon.
  2. When I reach the far end of the block a man appears by my side. He's followed me out of the cafe and asks if I can take his number. He's noticeably older than I am and opens with, "Are you a student around here?" (I was near Columbia).
  3. I'm thrown off by the whole thing since we're far from the cafe now. I'm so uncomfortable. I consider running into traffic and desperately wish the light would change so I can cross. When it does I apologize that I'm late for a thing and rush off.
  4. A few blocks down, after ensuring that I'm not being followed, I feel a bit guilty. He didn't seem like a malicious dude. Then I get mad that I even feel bad for this guy who came out of nowhere. I'm not obliged to take anyone's number and I have every right to be as startled as I was.
  5. I'm also bummed because I feel like I can't go back to that cafe anymore and I really liked that place.
  6. Then this on-and-off sunshine rain starts to happen. The 1 train isn't running up and down this part of Broadway thanks to weekend construction so I keep walking.
  7. The rain comes down harder. I'm getting drenched and I feel paranoid after the previous encounter. Then of course some asshole makes the effort IN THIS DOWNPOUR to catcall and harass me and every other woman he sees. We collectively roll our eyes and go our separate ways. I'm just glad I'm not wearing white.
  8. I arrive at the nail salon we found on yelp and step in with my friend. My ears prick up at the sound of Korean chatter. I'm not surprised this place is run by Koreans and I'm not surprised when the owner takes one look and recognizes me as one of them.
  9. She takes my hands to prep for the manicure. She talks to me in Korean now. We keep the convo to a minimum. Then she brings up that nytimes article. Oy.
  10. She says it was unfair and made "us" all look bad and insists it's all lies. I look around. All the employees of different ethnicities are working and freely chatting away. There are certifications on the walls. Gratuity is strictly cash only. Prices aren't suspiciously low.
  11. I don't suspect this particular salon but her defensive rhetoric feels unnecessary, as if she's trying to gauge my allegiance. But it's not about us vs them, I want to tell her.
  12. This is not about an entire immigrant community operating as ride-or-die. This is about the individual worker and their rights. This is me just trying to get a manicure. This is me trying to forget the daily aggravations from men. It's me trying, for once, to not be told by the world, "This is who you are and this is how you are to be treated."
  13. The owner goes to greet new customers and lets Gigi take over. Gigi came here from Malaysia 16 yrs ago. After having traveled around a bit on vacations, she still considers NYC the best city in the world. I'm glad to hear she gets vacations. I hope she isn't following a script. I hate that I'm suspicious of everything.
  14. Later, I take a taxi home. The driver is friendly and yaks on about "this crazy weather!" I pay him and run up to a building two doors from mine.
  15. The driver lingers, maybe to make sure a girl gets inside safe because he has a daughter her age, maybe to remember her address so he can come back later and attack her. Who fucking knows. I pretend to fumble for my keys until he drives away. Then I run home, over to the right house, turn on all the lights, and lock the door shut.
  16. ***This was really long and overwrought so if you made it down here, thanks***