When I heard Professor Nicole Hala say that we would have to talk to strangers and ask them a question, I immediately thought about the scene from the movie 21 Jump Street when David Franco says “Everyone’s a stranger till you give them a chance.” Even though this statement was mentioned in a comedic context, it does not take away from its validity. When you encounter a stranger you don’t know a single thing about them. But, somehow they ended up in the same place that you did at that single moment in time. One major thing that you might now know about them is how they have been affected by local or national events. That is why I decided to ask strangers about how they were affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Thankfully, my family and I weren’t really impacted by the Hurricane much. The Verizon Fios connection went down; therefore, we did not have wi-fi or television for about three days and the power was gone for a maximum of eight hours. At first I thought the storm was a repeat of Hurricane Irene which had been over hyped by the media. However, after checking up on a few friends and family, I realized the damage it had done.
The day after the hurricane, which was a Wednesday, I went to hang out with a few of my friends. One of my friends needed to pick up a few things from Wal-Mart so I decided to tag along. I noticed that there were an unusual amount of people there. I started talking to a middle aged man who was there with his wife and two young kids. The kids were running around and the mother was off in another part of the store. He mentioned to us that he was at Wal-Mart because his house still did not have power since Monday and it was nice to take his kids to a place that had power even though it was Wal-Mart. After that I asked him if there was any damage done to his house. He replied that parts of the fence had been knocked down and the tree in the yard had fallen, but, they were lucky that it missed the house.
The second person I interviewed was a fellow classmate who I wasn’t acquainted with. He had been showing up late to class for a few days since the hurricane, so, I wondered if it was because of the hurricane or not. At the end of the class I asked him and found out that he was a commuter like me. He lived in East Rockaway and as we had seen in the video in class, that part of New York had been devastated by the hurricane. He told me that the trains were still not fully functional yet and that he had been having a lot of trouble getting to school. I followed up by asking if there was any damage to his house. He told me that his house was fine. This came as a shock seeing that area had experienced massive flooding. He continued by saying “The basement is flooded and I haven’t had power for a while, but at least the house is still standing.” That response made me feel very ungrateful and spoiled because my living conditions were nowhere near that bad and I was complaining. However, this person who had been affected more than anyone I know still had this optimism in him and he was still looking on the bright side of life. It was very inspirational and heart-warming talking with him.
This assignment was a very fun experience that didn’t require much out of us. I just had to take time out of our everyday lives to talk to someone that I had no clue that I could relate to so much and would impact my way of thinking. It kept me grounded to see that people who had suffered more than me in the hurricane were still going on with their lives and trying to recover the best that they could. It was interesting to see that human beings are willing to talk to anyone as long as that person will listen.
As a commuter I have become very familiar with trains and buses. Most people just keep to themselves. Either looking out the window lost in thought, listening to music, reading a book or newspaper, studying for a class, playing games on some sort of electronic or whatever it may be. These people just mind their own business until their stop comes and they get off and continue their life. The individuals who are usually conversing with each other are acquaintances or people who observe something about another, such as the course subject they are studying, and start a conversation based upon that.
In any other situation it feels uncomfortable having complete strangers inches, sometimes centimeters, away from you. However, I have noticed that individuals aren’t uncomfortable being crammed together in a bus or train. In this situation, they just remain still and try to limit their movements as much as possible in order to avoid bumping into their neighbors. They realize that they are forced into sacrificing their personal space due to the circumstance that there is no place for them to go; therefore, you have to make the best of it. Even on an empty bus, the single seats are always the first ones to go and the double seats are taken up when there is no other place to sit without someone being next to you. However, on the train the triple seat are usually reach full capacity with only two people in them, one in the seat near the window and other in the seat near the aisle with their bags in the middle. Since there is more room to stand on a train a person would rather stand than be stuck between two strangers. I figured that it is just natural and instinctual for human beings to want their own personal space especially is an age where we are more comfortable interacting with others electronically rather than physically.
The weirdest experience I have ever had on the bus was on a regular day when I was going home around 9 pm after class with my friend. When I stepped onto the bus it was completely pack and I had to stand near the entrance along with a few other people. However, after a couple of stops, several people got off and I moved a little further down. I realized I was standing in front of a guy with a baseball cap on who was listening to music. The thing that was different about him and any other person with their headphones in was that he was playing an air guitar and “head banging.” It was very strange because it was the first time I actually felt uncomfortable on the bus. When I looked around I noticed that he was making other people around him uncomfortable too. However, the lady neighboring him on his right was laughing, but, she had hand in front of her mouth trying to cover it up. When I looked in the reflection of the window, I saw that other people on the bus had noticed him too and were whispering amongst each other about him too. I don’t know whether or not the guy did not notice the people or he just chose to ignore them because he just kept to himself. I thought that he might have been a musician just practicing before a show. This suspicion was affirmed when he reached his stop and pulled the guitar from under the seat and walked out. At this point the bus was still fairly crowded and he just pulled his instrument out even though it lifted the leg of the passengers beside him. This made the whole experience even stranger because this person broke every single norm of riding the bus. He bumped into others with saying “excuse me” and in a packed bus he didn’t limit his movements and just continued to do what he was doing. In a public space one has to be willing to make the sacrifice of their own personal space momentarily to not make other civilians uncomfortable and to maintain social order.
I grew up in a town that had a lot of graffiti. If there was ever a fence or wall that was clear was a perfect canvas for someone to bomb or tag. Most of this bombing wasn’t very good; it was just the person’s alias or it was gang related. I considered that to be vandalism because I felt that the owner of the house or building had to pay out of his own pocket to clean up the mess the other person had made. However, the graffiti we saw at 5 Points is art. It is done in place where people from all over the world come to showcase their talent. Also, these individuals didn’t have to sneak around or hide from the police. In addition, the local business people had taken the opportunity to use this to their benefit. In conclusion, there is a thin line between graffiti being a crime and being considered art, it all depends on the circumstances.
The Academic Service Learning project is a very fascinating requirement for students that help St. Johns live up to its Vincentian mission and reputation. However, the truth is not all of the students are looking forward to doing this activity. I was one of these students. I like doing community service, it’s a very humbling experience and I feel it keeps me grounded. In the case of ASL, it was just a very tedious process. I didn’t like that fact that it had to be done in certain specified locations and that it could not be done in my community. I commute to St. John’s everyday from Long Island and it is about an hour and half commute to get her e and another hour and half to get back. Since, I have to catch a train, I don’t have time in my weekday schedule to do 6 hours of community service, and therefore, I had to schedule it for a Saturday, which at the time I thought was a waste. I decided to do the ASL at the New Life Development center in Queens, which serves as a food pantry and a medical center for the less fortunate of the community. The experience itself was eye-opening. However, it wasn’t as humbling of an experience that it could have been. The supervisor and organizer of this location was an interesting person. He had a full time job and volunteered there on the side. He was also very funny and he joked around with us, which made us feel more comfortable. He scheduled me and a few of the other guys to make food bags and then organize the storage room in the basement of the church. After that, we had to alphabetize the forms that the people had to fill out if they were receiving help. The amount of forms was just ridiculous and this was just one place and there could be hundreds throughout New York with the same or even more people that rely on it. We always know that there are people out there who need assistance to get through everyday life, but, the amount of people you picture in your mind is an understatement to actually seeing how many people truly need it. Because we were working in the basement, we really didn’t get a chance to interact with the people. After we were finished, the people who were working upstairs with the people seemed to have enjoyed it way more than we had. That was probably because they were interacting with the people and they got to see the difference they were making. All in all, it was a good experience and I learned quite a bit from the experience.
Style Wars was a very insightful video. It showed how the bombing and graffiti culture manifested. It also was unbiased because it showed both sides of the argument. It showed why the people that thought it was a crime and how the people that do it justified their actions. I had some assumptions about why people bombed walls and subway cars, but thinking of graffiti as art was never one of them. After watching the video, I would say that graffiti is an art to some extent, however, it is still property damage. Some people offered a solution of creating sites for the specific purpose of people just going there to tag. That solution does not sound reasonable because most the of the individuals that bombed liked to pass by their creation everyday. If the site is not in their neighborhood then they aren’t going to there to tag.