Sartre on the
bumped into her on the subway as he was making
his way down the crowded aisle where it was
standing room only. He did not say excuse me.
She glared at
him. He ignored her.
it would be nice if you at least said excuse me.
around as if he were hearing voices. You
talkin to me?
this isnt Hollywood, and Robert De Niro
very true, the stranger admitted now
looking at her with one eye cocked.
Whats the point of being polite? We
live in a barbaric world, and such social
niceties are largely ignored and unappreciated.
Had I said excuse me, you would have grunted and
she countered, I think small acts of
courtesy are the least we can do in this barbaric
world. Civilization begins by saying excuse me
after youve practically knocked someone
down on their rear end in the subway!
he replied in a patronizing tone. Youre
exaggerating. You merely staggered a few steps,
and you never came close to hitting the ground. I
would have helped you get up.
mighty kind of you, she answered cynically.
you dont really think its kind,
he noted. Youre just being sarcastic.
Had I been gallant and noble, you would have
laughed in my face. Besides, no one ever
apologized to me.
ever apologized to you for what? she
having thrown me into a meaningless world where
my existence is absurd, unless I choose to give
it meaning by making responsible decisions like
saying excuse me on the subway. You have
criticized my decision not to say excuse me, and
you are threatening my values and my freedom.
have shattered my freedom by gazing upon me with
that look of disapproval, and I have temporarily
lost my Self because I have been transformed into
the object of your critical gaze.
you going to do about it? she wanted to
stare back at you and transform you into the
object of my critical gaze. Then I will get my
Self back, and you will lose your Self instead.
really, she replied. You would be
acting in bad faith.
arent you? he asked with interest.
course not. I am not the one denying my
responsibility in this situation. You have the
freedom to run away from saying excuse me, and
you are, indeed, running away, she pointed
I am standing right here, he disputed.
only because we are in transit. As soon as the
train stops, you will run away. The train
stopped, and he began to shove past other
passengers to head for the open doors.
way, whats your name? she called
He looked over
his shoulder and smiled at her. Jean-Paul
Sartre, he replied.
After all, he
had the freedom to lie.