Back when I was commuting, on the way to work one day someone stepped on the back of my shoe. I had to stop and bend down to slip my foot back in, which in the stampede of people getting off the Staten Island Ferry at rush hour is a hazardous maneuver.
And I thought, I am so sick of getting stepped on. Bumped into. Banged with a shopping cart. Walked through. So much so that when an assignment in a writing class was to make myself a character in a story, I wrote about killing the man who crashed into me on an escalator, making up a poison which caused death by explosive diarrhea while keeping the victim completely conscious. It was very satisfying.
At the office, I got into the elevator, which wasn’t crowded, just a few people getting on, including my company’s managing partner. We sort of made eye contact as he stepped in and then turned to face the front. As more people got on and off, I edged to the side and back of the car.
At a floor before our office, the elevator stopped to let on more people and the boss made some room by stepping back, right onto me.
“Oh, I’m sorry; I didn’t see you,” he said.
But he had seen me, and even vaguely acknowledged me. He just hadn’t noticed me. Somewhere in the microseconds between my image striking his retina, and his brain recording the information from his visual cortex, I disappeared. It’s OK, I understand this. It’s a biological imperative. No point in wasting valuable reproductive attention to someone who is not going to help that reproduction, right?
If he had been aware of me, and that slippage of alertness from the rest of his surroundings gave tigers a chance to attack, his DNA would be entirely wasted, as his bodily fluids splattered the jungle flora. Whereas if I had been a younger woman, he might have had a “let’s get it on before the tigers get to us” chance before our tiger-mauled body parts were strewn about the jungle foliage. Oh. That still doesn’t turn out very well for his progeny, does it? Apparently his biology isn’t as smart as it thinks it is.
“Ah,” you might say. “But what about Abe Vigoda?”
You’re right, of course. Chances are good that the boss wouldn’t want to make babies with Abe Vigoda, either, but surely the boss would have seen, noticed and not stepped on Abe Vigoda.
For, as an older gentleman, Abe Vigoda could, as an alpha male, a silverback so to speak, have the power to decide who will propagate. So of course a man would have to refrain from stepping upon Abe Vigoda. He might even step aside and make room for, perhaps show some deference, a nod of the head to Abe Vigoda. Who would then bless him with a choice of nubile females. That, after all, is nature.
But the commuters on the train, the tourists on the streets, the shoppers running over my toes with their carts, the boss and the other workers at the job, aren’t out hunting game. They’re not dragging bloody carcasses back to the tribe to earn mating brownie points. They’re feasting on the fruits of civilization. Surely if they can reap those benefits, they can abandon some primitive instincts and learn to be aware of older women enough to avoid clomping all over them.
So, please, stop stepping on me. Or I’ll have to resort to my oldest son’s suggestion and armor my elbows, shoulders, knees and feet with spikes. Then it won’t matter to me if you don’t see me. In fact, I rather hope you won’t. As a nurturing female, I carry lots of bandaids.
It’s just nature.
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