When you enter the men’s restroom on the lower level at Grand Central Terminal, you see a sign behind glass and contained within a simple brass frame: “Rules of Conduct.” The homeless men come here to wash themselves off and prepare for the day. As I wash my hands and dry them in the Xlerator, I am standing next to an African-American man who must be in his late 60s or early 70s. He’s talking to a worker, also black but younger, standing behind a utility closet door that’s ajar. The older man’s wire grocery cart has today’s New York Times lying face up on a stack of torn-up square pieces of cardboard. I am unsure what is below the cardboard and don’t want to stare in order to find out. The man’s torso is bent at almost a 90° angle. I wonder how he gets through his day.
Upstairs and now outside Grand Central for the remaining minutes before my train – so I can get some fresh air – I see well-dressed white people going to some sort of event at the job site of One Vanderbilt, the block-long and -wide building that purports to remake much of Midtown East. It is now just a hole in the ground. I catch a glimpse of one of the actors from the television show “ER.” I forget his name (Anthony something. I look it up: Edwards), but that’s not important. He’s here as a “sparkly,” as one of my friends in politics used to say. He embodies in personality and symbol what the police and ambulance lights and the glare of the news reporters’ cameras do nearby.
A mustached man in a dark blue suit walks by. He is on his cell saying, “… so we get on the phone with him and say ‘We feel that our working relationship has run its course.'” He continues to walk toward the check-in desk. There’s construction equipment to the left, just out of direct view from the street where I’m standing.
Three young women dressed in black sit at the desk. They have clipboards and greet him and people like him.