(photo by Gisella Klein)
The little boy was standing near the corner of 40th Street and 8th Avenue, across the street from Port Authority Bus Terminal. He was standing to one side of the amNew York newspaper rack and in front of his parents who were pouring over a map. I presume it was a map of New York City. Clearly, they were tourists.
The little boy could not have been more than four or five, his right hand held out to the side so people could “high five” him as they rushed by. Only they didn’t all rush by. Some slowed down, miraculously, to slap his tiny hand. New Yorkers are not known for slowing down for anyone. His smile so wide and bright you’d think this was Disneyland or some other fairy tale place, magical and full of wonder. His parents seemed either oblivious to what he was doing or felt he was safe, or both.
I stopped in my tracks for a moment, thinking this might be a joke, watching the man walking in front of me high-five the boy. I thought, I’m not gonna do that, it’s too weird. But then a flash of whimsy overcame me, and I slapped the boy’s somewhat grubby hand. What a smile! He was the human toll booth you had to pass, but didn’t have to pay. You could ignore him and walk on by, but why would you miss an opportunity for pure joy, however fleeting?
It made the bus ride home so much sweeter.