I was on the subway this evening, cranky and tired from a day of work and still not feeling very well.  A man and his family got on the train; he was pushing a stroller and wearing a large backpack across his shoulders.

They were clearly tourists.  This, in my tired mind, was their first offense.

I should also add that one of my pet peeves is men who wield their giant and solidly packed backpacks, oblivious to the fact that anyone standing in their vicinity could be a casualty from one swift move, particularly on a crowded subway train.  It’s as if a new generation of men has spawned and they’ve been mandated to carry every single one of their personal belongings with them at all times.

This gentleman clearly belonged in this category.  At least in my mind.

The tourist man rolled the stroller just past me and claimed his spot, his backpack just skimming my handbag.  Every now and then, he would bend down to say something to his baby in the stroller.  Each time his backpack would bang into me.

My cranky New Yorker persona in full force, each time I shook my head.  Again and again his backpack banged into me, and again and again, I’d sigh and shake my head.

His wife said something to him in another language from across the train.  He turned around, away from me, as if to see what she was talking about.

A minute later, he turned around and looked me squarely in the eye, his eyes soft and sincere.

“I’m very sorry if I keep pushing you.”

And with that one genuinely polite sentence, I snapped out of my annoyance.  I took the invisible tough and ornery New Yorker cloak off and I surrendered to what was real.

“Don’t worry about it; it’s no problem,” I said to him.  And I meant it.  I even smiled as I said it.

I caught a glimpse of his other daughter.  She was unabashedly happy, her laugh lighting up her face.

There, another moment of grace.