So I got comeuppance about 20 minutes ago. And it was pretty funny, at least by my twisted sense of humor.
If you've been reading this blog for more than a minute, you know that I am a reporter for The Miami Herald, as well as a columnist. Journalism 101 for those who don't know (though, I know most of you are aware): When wearing my reporter-only hat, I gather and relay facts and other people's informed opinions, never my own. And when I'm wearing my columnist hat I'm offering my (hopefully subtle) informed opinion on reported facts.
One of the cool things about writing a column is having my name and face above an opinion I feel passionately about.
I have no doubt that every columnist has a little bit of similar pride. It's human nature to look at your name and face and say I did that!, especially on those occasions - rare for me - when people recognize you in public. You know they're not recognizing you 'cause you're a super model, though I am pretty enough to be mistaken for one. It's that they recognize your face as the one from that newspaper or that Website, and so on. They know, even if they can't think of it right away, that you've written something that compelled them to think.
And any opinion writer who denies those feelings is either a robot or full of it.
So keeping all that in mind, about 30 minutes ago I stepped onto the people mover, known in Miami as the Metro Mover, also known in Miami as the mobile crack den and mobile shark tank, to ride from One Herald Plaza to the other side of downtown to briefly meet a source to get a document I need for a story I'm writing.
I bounded up the steps and ran onto the train like O.J. running from the cops through the airport in a Hertz commercial and made it just before the doors snapped shut, wheezing like I'd just run a marathon. Hey, to be fair, I have asthma. That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.
Anyway, a group of elderly women were seated about six feet away from the pole I was leaning against as the train began to move and they were deeply engrossed in quiet but intense conversation. After two or three minutes, one of them looked me in the eye and squinted the way you do when you think you recognize someone. She stared for an uncomfortable moment and then leaned over and whispered to one of her companions, who then also stared for a moment. The second woman then gestured to the third, and she gave me a hard look too.
I admit, I began to think They recognize me! Cool! So I have a little bit of an ego. Sue me. If that's the worst you can say about me...
Meanwhile, across from this trio were two young men - homeless, based on their dress and conversation about ideal campsites in a nearby park and meal times possibly changing at a nearby soup kitchen. As the women spoke and stared quietly, the young men were loud and boisterous, swearing like sailors, cracking silly, sexual jokes, etc.
The women, as we drew closer to Bayside Village, an outdoor mall, on Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami, began to whisper and point to me more. The young men? They grew louder and more obnoxious.
We got to the stop closest to the mall, and one of the women stood and approached me smiling and pointing at the Miami Herald ID hanging around my neck. Here goes, I thought. She's gonna compliment me on my column! Instead, she said, "Excuse me. Can you tell us how many blocks we have to walk to get to Bayside from here?"
My ego deeply deflated, I pointed the group in the right direction and watched, secretly embarassed for a moment, as they walked away. The doors closed, I turned away to look out the windows on the other side of the train, and I noticed the two annoying young men had quieted down. And they were now staring at me too.
Great, I thought. What did I do to piss them off?
About 30 seconds later as we approached the next stop, one of the young men said in a questioning, almost accusatory tone, "James Burnett?"
"Yep," I responded.
"I like your column man. Good stuff. Me and my peeps over there (gestures toward a homeless camp in the park) read it every Friday."
And with that, both men patted me on the shoulder and got off the train.
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