Friday, July 22, 2011

I bought a bootleg movie from a guy on the subway

Never Done: I bought a bootleg movie from a guy on the subway

He was good. He was really good. He came on at West 4th with his brother, and started hawking his wares. Usually it annoys me when people talk loud in the subway, because it interrupts my reading or writing. But there was something about this guy that made me pay attention, and then the young couple next to me started to notice him too. "They're crystal clear. We brought a DVD player so you can screen before you buy. Before you buy, we have to buy and we want them to be good. We have top titles. I'm putting on Harry Potter for you right now. You pay $5 at the movie theater, and all you get is three pieces of unbuttered popcorn. Pay us $5 and your whole family can watch a movie over and over again." When I write it down, it doesn't convey the intelligent performance that this guy delivered. But trust me, he was gifted.

Before long the young couple and I were talking together. Then the movie seller started his rap all over again, but this time in Spanish. One of the two said, "Spanish! Now the cat's doing it in Spanish!" I told them I was almost tempted, and in saying that aloud, realized it's something I've never done and -- well, you know what then.

Here are all the reasons I considered not doing it:
It's illegal both to sell stuff in the subway and to bootleg proprietary art
It's my own industry no less
Just because they weren't annoying me doesn't mean they weren't annoying other riders
I didn't really want any of the movies he was selling: Bad Teacher, Green Lanterns, The Hangover Part 2

And the reasons for going for it:
He exuded something that made me want to support him, or at least engage with him
I'd never done it before

As you can see, it wasn't traditional ethics that prevailed, but a sense of adventure and new experience -- and the ethics of choosing to do something I have never done. I bought the latest Harry Potter movie from him. (I am still going to see it first on the big screen.) As is so often the case with the things I do that I have never done, the big adventure came as a result of having done it. When I returned to my seat, I got into a conversation with the young couple and a middle aged woman who was now also sitting near them. I don't usually do this, but I told them that I had bought the DVD because I have a practice of doing something every day I've never done before.

They lit up. The middle aged woman asked me what I did yesterday. When I told her I ate Halal street meat, they were delighted and amazed. You never ate it before? But it's sooooo gooood! And the best part is that it's open 24 hours. Then the woman asked what I did the day before, and I told them about the triathlon, and my insight. Another round of delight, and a conversation about process vs product. Then she wanted to know what the most adventurous thing is I've done -- the biggest. After thinking for a minute, I told them about adopting an older child, and this about melted the young guy, who had a very astute analysis of the significance of this. Eventually the young woman spoke up, and just said -- you'll be a great parent. Any child would be lucky.

It was so sweet. The four of us -- a multi-racial, multi-cultural, impromptu cohort on the train -- talking like we had just met at a dinner party. Finally I turned to the young couple and said, "In the end, the small things I do are as significant as the giant things." This made the young woman laugh, pointing at her guy. "He says that all the time." He confirmed. "It's the little things that count!"

My stop was approaching, and I said goodbye. As I was stepping off the air conditioned train into the thick heat on the Jay Street platform, I heard them say I have "great energy." But you know who had great energy? The movie guy, who brought us all together.

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