The trip from Penn Station to Kew Gardens takes about seventeen or so minutes, give or take, depending on train traffic. Last night I was given an excellent opportunity while on the train, and I am glad that I took it.
My wife Elizabeth was sitting with the stroller and I was holding Malka on one knee while Chaim sat to my left. As the time for departure neared, the seats quickly filled and we found ourselves across from two young women, neither older than twenty-two if I would have to guess, who both looked quite happy to be on the train. One of them was taking long sips from a can concealed by a paper bag — it turned out to be hard alcohol. I personally like to settle down with single malt scotch once in awhile but never while riding mass transit — that’s just me.
They began having a conversation about their workday and one of them took out a presentation — by the images I saw it looked to be about fashion. She seemed to be extremely unhappy with her supervisor and the way that said supervisor spoke to her about anything — very short, snippy, and not entirely useful when it came to feedback.
She said that she didn’t understand why the supervisor could not tell her that her presentation was good enough, so to speak. She said that she realized it could use some work but that it was definitely decent. I wanted to say that okay should never be the goal to which one aspires. The absolute best which one is capable of doing should be that goal — but I did not say anything. I continued to speak with the children about an unrelated matter as I did so.
As the train started to slow and I gathered my belongings, I thought about how this person across from me was taking this daily criticism from her supervisor on a daily basis and letting it basically ruin her day until she got to the train and put it out of her mind with the help of a numbing agent, as it were. I stood up with Malka and held Chaim’s hand and started getting out of the seats. I looked the woman squarely in the face and said, “Eleanor Roosevelt said that ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’ Every morning before you start working I think you should try to remember that. And ‘Make it work!'” She thanked me and we were on our way.
As we stood by the gate and Chaim waved at the trains, I saw the two women in their seat and I thought about how many other things I could have said instead of words of encouragement that would have been unpleasant — and how glad I was that I could offer them.