My neighbor Vinnie
Updated: Feb 15
9AM bus out of Port Authority Terminal in NYC. I had ran to the bus station from my hotel, non-wheelie luggage and melting iced coffee in tow. I had spent the night before behind the scenes of the 2018 midterm election coverage on NBC News as a Graphics Playback Operator. I got the gig through the father of a friend and lo and behold, he was sitting at the back of the bus. I hadn't seen him all election cycle so we were dishing about the winners and losers from the night before. I believe this was around the time of Robert Menendez's corruption trial and the topic came up. Our seats were all the way in the back and suddenly to my left, perks up a man who was either a construction worker or a Village Person. It was a packed bus and I was sitting in the dead center of the back row so I would've rolled like a bowling ball down the aisle given the opportunity to get away from this loud, obnoxious man at first.
The coworker I was with engaged him a little and they went back and forth. A few passengers looked back at him with a "please for the love of god don't yell about politics for an hour this morning" look. After the initial argument settled, we did get to talking. He was from Vernon which borders New York state and he was telling me about his work and his daily commute before slipping into something more Fox News-esque. I was trying to keep information about myself to a minimum because you know, stranger danger and all but I told him my name and that I lived in Dover (a town that is 80% hispanic).
Somewhere along the line, President Obama came up and he showed me his "Obama Phone" which was pretty cool. Around the 30 minute mark, my coworker was ready to kill me but I started telling this man about DACA and how it changed my life. While actively holding a government handout, this man looked at me like I was insane for implying that Obama had ever done anything of value. I gave him the full spiel, I get to work, I pay taxes and social security, no criminal record and if it wasn't for DACA I wouldn't be where I was at the time. The lightbulb clicked. He asked a few questions and I answered them. "I had no idea he did that". He had met a real life "illegal" and instead of arguing with me, he was willing to learn and understand. He couldn't believe there wasn't a pathway to citizenship for me. I do think we got into a tiff on the whole illegal vs. undocumented immigrant verbiage but well, no random stranger on the bus is perfect I guess.
He started showing me pictures on his phone and explaining how he supported a charity that rescued dogs via plane? I think? Coming out as undocumented to complete strangers isn't something I do often, especially in an enclosed space, so I wasn't too focused on what he was showing me but he was very friendly for the rest of the ride. My coworker had fallen asleep towards the end of the trip and other passengers were moving towards the front of the bus after giving my neighbor nasty looks due to his volume. I said goodbye and got off at my stop. I haven't been able to stop thinking about Vinnie since and the real shape of this blog was created in my mind because of this experience. If I could invite this stranger into my "tower" and help him understand that I'm a human being, couldn't I do that with everyone?
30 Rockefeller Plaza