I can’t promise this is exactly how the storytellers worded them, but what follows is how I heard the stories unfold. Below, the first of three heard this past week.
Story 1 – graduate student, my office, in response to a remark about the black plastic bag containing the student’s belongings:
“Yesterday, while standing on the subway returning from [the place I work] to campus, I saw an older European man coming toward me. I assumed he was European – German, maybe – because he was wearing shorts and I guess that’s what I assume when I see shorts on a grown man in October. As he walked by me, trying to find a more suitable place to stand is what I thought to myself, his feet tapped mine. He mumbled something that resembled an apology, but I can’t be certain. After taking pains to circumambulate me, he stopped so that his back was now inches from my face. His shirt was tucked into his shorts, and then, without warning, I see [at this point, the student makes a hand gesture that, in the States, is occasionally used when singing the nursery rhyme “Itsy Bitsy Spider”] … a bed bug. And then, before I could get over my shock, another one crawling up the other side of his back. At this point, I’m thinking, ‘what do I do?’ because I can’t exactly yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded subway car. As I think, I begin to slowly inch backward, ensuring that the space between us is steadily increasing. What did I do? I got out of the subway car at the first opportunity! But then, realizing that I had further to go before getting where I needed to go, I hopped back onto another car on the same train and hoped that the man with the shorts had not been there first. And so, when I got home, I emptied the contents of my bag and washed it, which is where it is now and which is why I am using this black plastic bag to carry my things.”