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experience gave me the maturity and confidence to be able to talk to strangers. It occurred on a plane ride back to New Jersey from a technology conference in Silicon Valley, California. Shy and aloof to those whom I did not have to interact with, I usually ignored strangers around me - those who walked by in the school halls, those who used the urinal before I did, and those who sat next to me on planes. Therefore, it was an unexpected turn of events when a man leaned his chair back against me, an event that changed my way of approaching people.
I sat down on the seat, took out a book, and entered into a different world. While I was absorbed in the story, I felt a wall slowly closing in front of me. Waking me back into the sad world again, I noticed a heavy man in front of me adjusting his seat and pressing his chair back into my knee. Okay, he will probably notice that he is a
little too far back any time.
An agonizing 360 seconds passed, and the pressure against my knee was excruciating. I tried to free myself, but there was nowhere to run. I tried to budge my way left. Failed. I tried to budge my way right. Failed. Oh my goodness, my next stop is going to b the hospital if I don’t think of something quick. I thought hard.
Should I call support from the other two limbs above the helpless knee? I was desperate. I placed my hands on the seat in front of me,
and slowly and subtly pushed it to lessen the force on my knees. It
temporarily warded off the pain, but my support soon faded. There must be an easier way. I did not dare ask the older, larger man in front me. I was always the one who kept his mouth shut and held his selfish favors to himself. Raised in a Korean family, I was taught to treat elders with the utmost respect. My family lived a feudal system, where the oldest is the king and the youngest is the peasant. I was going against an omnipotent king.
The tables needed to be turned. I had to take actions for myself and go on the attack myself. With ferocity, I viciously retaliated by cordially asking, “Excuse me sir. Is it okay if you can move up your seat just a little, it’s touching my knee,” and concluded with a gentle smile. “Oh, of course. No problem.” He adjusted the seat, and the backseat slowly backed away from its victims, letting them regain life after the dreadful damage. “Thank you sir, it’s much better now”
This 10-minute event matured me to have confidence to confront strangers. Two weeks ago, I saw one of my timid friends scratching his head and struggling over a math problem. It caused a flashback of my own struggle on the airplane ride in my head. I sat next to him and supported his war against a calculus problem on
derivatives, concluding this struggle in less than a minute.