In a lot of ways I’m not like other people I know. For instance, not many people would wake up on a 35 degree morning like this morning and think, “It’s a beautiful day to walk to work!” You see I’m a winter lover to my very core and I would much rather make the 50 minute trek to work bundled up in my jacket and scarf breathing in the crisp, chilled air than sweat in a tank top, suffocating on humidity. On a winter day like today, the sun is just peeking above the tops of the buildings and the city begins to shake off night’s darkness, yawning in protest.
It is 9:00 am when I step out of my door. Many people across the U.S. would be starting the work day by now but not New Yorkers; this city is just waking up. My walk takes me downtown, through Chinatown and along Little Italy, by Soho and, finally, into the heart of the financial district. Shop owners roll up the big metal gates covering their storefronts and arrange colorful window displays. Trucks stop on nearly every corner to drop off deliveries for the day. People hustle about the open air markets of Chinatown to purchase the freshest fruits and vegetables before they get picked over.
The city is alive and abuzz with anticipation of what possibilities the new day can bring. Passersby smile at one another, their moods not yet tainted by the worries of work. This is my favorite time to see the city. I suppose many people prefer the extravagance of New York nightlife but not me, I prefer the beauty of the beginning (I also tend to be one of those super chipper morning persons that you want to smack in face).
When walking to work my mind tends to go down all types of paths. For one, I am always on the lookout for any man who will sexually harass me and say something degrading. This asinine man could very well be any one that I pass on the street and this makes everyone a suspect. Therefore I am constantly running comebacks through my head…just in case.
I also tend to make up stories for people, imagining what secrets their lives hold, where they are headed, what they are thinking. Every now and then I get so caught up in people-watching that I forget where I am going or I suddenly catch the confused eye of someone I was staring at and have to quickly look away.
The least favorite part of my walk to work, even more so than the potential sexual harassment, is passing 1 Police Plaza and the other Department of Justice buildings. This morning I noticed an engraving above one of the buildings that read: “Equal and exact justice to all men.” Besides the blatant lack of gender inclusive pronoun usage, the glaring reality of this phrase stopped me cold: there is NOT equal and exact justice to all people when the majority of prisoners are young men of color, when our prisons are filled beyond capacity, when we as Americans demand harsher, longer, crueler punishments for the convicted, when, time and again, people are guilty until proven innocent.
Suddenly the beauty of the day is tarnished and my mind begins its daily pondering of why the world is the way it is, what systems are in place to keep it that way, and how I can change them. Like I said, I suppose I am not like most people, consumed by the massive amounts of injustices I see on my walk to work, but, then again, perhaps I am.