Ruminations on homeless people in the Madrid Metro

I encountered a homeless man today, while I was walking out of the metro, blabbering on to himself standing next to the elevator that would take me up to street level. There was a pungent odor emanating from his body. I took a beat, one or two seconds, and then decided to carry my bike up the one flight of stairs. I recoil at the putrid smelling beggars with deformities on the subways. The norm on the subway here in Madrid, as well as New York City, is to look away when beggars ask for change. I don’t want to face up to the fact that this guy is even the same species me. If a different genetic hand of cards were dealt to me, I could be the desperate and smelly beggar. If I were born to poor or disadvantaged parents, that could be me causing the mild discomfort to the metro passengers. The passengers (and me) don’t like being forced to appear negligent and unkind.  The good people just want the interaction to be over so they don’t have to think about the injustices in the world that exist beyond their own nose. I don’t want to confront realities, especially the realities of other’s suffering.  Delusion is a perfectly warm and cozy blanket at night, its the only one I use.

In restaurants and bars in Madrid, they allow peddlers and solicitors to enter, thrusting roses, socks, or hats in your face trying to make a buck. It is more prevalent when you are sitting at an outdoor terrace.  These people can enter any establishment to beg customers to buy their product. Peddlers and panhandlers in New York know better, as they would be kicked out in less than five seconds. New Yorkers think New York City is the center of the universe, evidenced by the fact that we call it “the city” even when we are halfway across the world.

I have been extremely close to just booking a plane ticket home recently. I want comfort and convenience back in New York.  I want all my meals delivered straight to my door so I can sit on my ass all day and let my foot heal and descend into a gluttony induced Netflix coma, where I am not required to think.  I don’t want to this “Let’s be super social at every meal and have 2 hour lunches at restaurants” thing.  There’s no such thing as a “lunch place” or “breakfast place” to get take out in Spain. The options are:

1) fancy and expensive sit-down lunch/dinner restaurants

2) cafes, with croissants and other bread pastries

3) bars, where there are the ever-repetitive tapas menus.

There is a burrito place called Tierra that is two blocks from my apartment, its basically like Chipotle.  I go there almost every day because its one of the few places I can take my food to-go.  I have never seen anyone in there over the age of 26.  Its where all the cool college kids hang out.  I hate having to be in there for longer than 15 minutes.  All the Spanish and American college kids are trendy and well dressed.  They talk about their exams and “Dude you were so bombed last night!”

I think my self worth has a strong link to maintaining my status as a white upper-class New Yorker, raised with privilege. Something about this conception of myself, sustains me and gives me a feeling of superiority. It cages me in though, this affluence bubble. The dilemma is learned-helplessness: a concept thoroughly explored in experiments with rats and theories the world over.  The bar is set higher for me to achieve the same standard of living that my parents provided me growing up, but my career motivation is not exactly rip-roaring, because I was handed so much.  I worry that I won’t make as much money as those in my peer group and the people in my social circles.  I am a product of my environment as much as the Spaniard guys with the shaved sides of their heads and long hair on top, gelled and permed to perfection.

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