It's a welcome surprise when our preconceptions of how groups of people behave are broken down. Such incidents remind us not simply of the well-known fact that people don't behave like cultural stereotypes, but also of something else- a person may also behave against the established understanding of the persona they choose to project. To explain:
We're a 4, climbing the hill on James, sailing smoothly on the wire, coming in for a gentle stop outside the jail. I announce the jail as one of this stop's attractions, and we have fun getting over ourselves, asking each other if anyone wants to go to jail, et cetera. We get that out of the way.
Stepping on the bus now is a young black American fellow, late teens, and his manner of dress is, well, smooooth, as per the dictates of the latest fashion. Oversized velour Puma pants ($60), sparkling white and appropriately sagged; a poly fleece zip-up cat hoodie ($65), also by Puma, unzipped, with the hood up and strings dangling; this of course is oversized as well, bright white with blue accents; white strapback cap with a factory-fresh flat bill (~$30), gold and silver necklace chains, and top-brand basketball shoes, loosely laced, easily in the $150-220 range. Not a speck of dust on these puppies. He might play ball, but he definitely doesn't wear these when he does. Is he wearing one-way reflective sunglasses that cover his face? Of course he is.
He's a towering vision dressed in glowing white, the world's first combination of Gandalf the White and Jam Master Jay back when Run-DMC started endorsing Adidas!*
In other words, he's too cool for school. Everything about his demeanor suggests that I'm not going to get a peep of acknowledgement from him. That would be fine, but I still say something. It's my nature. After all, I used to wear flannel shirts so big they went down to my knees. Like all other humans, I give him the benefit of the doubt as I say,
"How's it goin'?"
He takes it all in stride and leisurely slurs out, in the kind voice of one young man to another: "doingoodhowboutchurseeelf?"
Oh, I love it. I love it. Who says chivalry is dead?
*Interestingly, this was the first time hip-hop and athletic wear were associated. As commonplace as the connection is now, the linking of those two worlds was considered somewhat arbitrary at the time. This gentleman wears his shoes loosely laced as a compromise between the obvious benefits of having shoelaces (i.e., ability to run) and the fashion statement of having no laces at all. Felons serving time couldn't wear shoelaces because the danger of suicide by hanging, and this was interpreted on the outside as a fashion move.
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