Throughout my life, there have been some random characters who have affected me in small ways.
Last year at school the woman who worked in the Emerson Cafe was important to me because of the way she said "Everything bagel cream cheese!" when I made my order. It made me laugh and laugh. I loved Everything Bagel Cream Cheese Lady.
Earlier this year, What You Having To Drink Lady came into my life. She works in the Dunkin Donuts downstairs and the way she says, "What you having to drink baby?" when I'm waiting on line is often a highlight of my day.
Some characters evoke not just laughter but sympathy.
The man in the photo you see is BBQ guy. Every day, the whole day, in every weather, he stands either on Broadway or University Place handing out take-out menus for this BBQ restaurant in the East Village. All day he tries to hand out these menus to passers-by and says "BBQ?" as he reaches toward them.
I don't know why it makes me so sad, really. I mean, there are surely people I see in New York on a daily basis who have it worse than BBQ guy. But his situation gets me more than any other. Maybe it's because I have never heard him say anything other than "BBQ?" or because he's always wearing those jeans and that hat and that shirt. Maybe it's because I imagine the boredom and frustration he must feel doing the same monotonous task all the time.
Most times I go by BBQ Guy I take a menu. I'll probably never go to the BBQ restaurant, but I do it because I feel bad for the man for reasons that I can't quite explain.