“Going to prison is like dying with your eyes open.”
I don’t live in a rough neighborhood. These eyes have never seen a fight or any violence. Around the corner and up the street is a local convenience store that is open twenty-four hours. I walk over there maybe five times a week for some cookies. One likes a treat when watching a movie on cable.
There are usually a few guys hanging out in front of this store. Homeless, junkies, drunks; I don’t know. They beg for spare change. One guy has window cleaner and a rag; with great industry he will wash your windshield for a few bucks. This is a tri-lingual zone, we have it all.
The gals behind the counter are cheerful cashiers. Several have big neck tattoos and more across their upper chest. Many of the customers have big neck tattoos, some say 505 which is our area code. They look like ex-cons but might be simply influenced by hip-hop prison chic. Tough guys.
Everyone is going about their business, they want to buy gas or beers or lottery tickets. There is a watchful awareness in this store; no one is lost in their phones. No eye contact with fellow customers and there is an under-current of urgency, like any store, to get done with this task and move on.
The men hold the door open for each other.
It is the strangest little ritual. I like it. Never have I seen a woman hold the door but the men do so for each gender. If I see you coming and hold the door, you might scoot forward a few steps to take the door duty as you enter.
This is very important.
If I see you coming but you are too far away to way, I’ll push at the door to open it farther as a gesture to suggest that I’d have held the door as I then walk away. Everyone responds to this courtesy. Men hustle to respond and take over the door-holding duty.
There might be a flash of eye contact and a nod. Never anything more.
Men hold the door for only a second or two and other men respond to it. It is a small courtesy that keeps the peace in our small little safe zone. It’s pretty cool to watch it in action.