So…I’ve been in New Orleans for one week now. It feels like I’ve been here for a month with all that’s been happening. It’s been a week of ups and downs. Amazing coincidences and then plain bad luck. Then yesterday, I was reminded why I came.
I had just bought a bicycle. I enjoy riding bicycles and they come in handy when your car has a hard time staying healthy. On the very first ride I got about 5 miles away and the brakes AND the chain malfunction; they broke. So now I’m walking my bike back to my spot when I pass this stoop with some people sitting on it. I always acknowledge the people I pass, even if its just a small smile and nod, and this is what I did towards this group. There were two middle-aged women, an older man and a teenage boy. I quickly nodded and kept walking when I heard the old man shout something unintelligible (I couldn’t understand because he had a thick accent and I had one ear occupied listening to NPR). I sort of glanced back, unsure if he was talking to me as I kept walking, and I saw all four of them looking right at me… Yeah he was talking to me. “What was that?” I asked cheerfully. “Did you ask me ‘Can you tie a tie?’”
I taught myself how to tie a tie at my college graduation. It was ten minutes before I needed to be inside, and I pulled up to the stadium in my little Nissan Sentra. Doing my part as a fully fledged millennial, I took out my smartphone and watched a youtube video teaching me how to tie a tie. I’m still not great at it. I don’t know what the difference is between a double windsor and a…. I guess a “normal” knot is… Yeah, I don’t know much about ties. BUT, I know how to tie the one knot I learned the day I graduated college.
I did not anticipate, however, how difficult it is to tie a tie backwards, as in, tie it onto somebody else standing in front of them. So me and this teenage kid got real comfortable as I stood behind him, practically holding his hands as I guided him through. It dawned on me that, although this is a skill that I picked up because of my access to a smartphone, I could’ve learned this from any male and probably most females in my immediate or extended family. Hell, I could’ve learned this from 95% of the men I know, because of where I grew up, who I grew up with, and the professional skills that we learn. They’re taken for granted…they are just there and you just learn them. I realized though that there were three people outside this house that were at least 25 years older than I am, and I was the only one that knew how to tie a tie.
The kid was pretty shy through most of it, I think he felt a little intimidated. The other adults didn’t say a whole lot as I was teaching. They were all pretty transfixed, I think they all were trying to learn too. I have mad respect for people who take action when they don’t know something. They could’ve let me pass right on by and the kid just would’ve gone without a tie in church the next day, but instead they now all know this simple skill. It took 5 minutes.
As I left I told the guy he looked sharp, he thanked me and I left. As I was walking away I heard the kid say excitedly “I know how to tie a tie!” I could hear the smile in his voice.
Without making too many assumptions, and with genuine goodwill towards this boy and his family, I hope he gets the opportunity to tie his own tie on his college graduation day…