A video of a man shaving while riding public transit in New York City gained viral attention earlier this month, with many online commenters expressing a mixture of amusement and disgust.
The subject of the video, 56-year-old Anthony Torres, has since spoken out about the incident, sharing that the commuter who filmed him unknowingly captured what was a very vulnerable moment.
“My life is all screwed up. That’s the reason I was shaving on the train,” Torres told The Associated Press earlier this week.
Two videos, taken by fellow New Jersey Transit passenger Pete Bentivegna, gained millions of views and hundreds of responses on Twitter, WCBS-TV reported. The first clip shows Torres swiping his lathered faced with a razor, letting the excess fall to the floor. The second shows him with a clean-shaven face, holding a beer.
Many online commenters expressed their disgust with Torres, calling him a “slob,” ”animal” and “nasty.” Others seemed amused, while a few warned against judging the man without knowing his full story.
As it turns out, the story behind the video tells a lot about a man struggling to make something better of himself.
Torres told the AP that he had been homeless and staying in a New York City shelter when his brother sent him money for a train ticket to go stay with another brother in southern New Jersey. Last Thursday, at around 7 p.m., he grabbed a train from Pennsylvania Station, heading to Trenton.
He explained that he didn’t have a chance to shower before leaving the shelter and wanted to look “presentable” for his family.
“I don’t want to say that I’m homeless, let everybody know,” he said. “That’s why I was shaving.”
Torres’ brother, Thomas Torres, 57, told the AP his younger brother has had a rough life. He’s one of six brothers who grew up poor on a farm in Hammonton, New Jersey.
Anthony Torres has held many different jobs over the years, working as a casino security guard and then as a construction worker, moving wherever he found employment and sleeping in motels or bus depots. He even worked in Florida for a time, where his adult son lives.
The 56-year-old has also reportedly suffered from health complications in recent years, including two strokes. Even before the strokes, however, his brother Thomas says Anthony was always prone to making short-sighted decisions.
When Thomas Torres heard about the shaving incident, he wasn’t at all surprised.
“When he did what he did, that to him was normal,” he explained. “He’s not that kind of person that does it because of spite or because he wants the attention.”
The 57-year-old tearfully recalled that when his younger brother finally arrived at his house in Atco, New Jersey, he asked for a sleeping bag — he had planned to spend the night under a nearby bridge.
“For so many years, he’s lived this way and I feel sorry for him. It’s hard to see the life that he’s lived,” Thomas said.
Anthony Torres claims he was unaware that someone had filmed his last-minute grooming session. When he found out the video had been posted on the internet, he was surprised, embarrassed and a little upset.
“I never thought it would go viral, people making fun of me,” he said.
Thomas Torres said his family decided to speak out and allow others to hear his brother’s side of the story.
“Maybe people will have more feeling knowing what this kid’s been through,” he said.
In the wake of the train incident and subsequent media coverage of Torres’ story, Pete Bentivegna issued a public apology to the man he filmed last week.
“I never intended any harm by taking or posting this video,” Pete Bentivegna said in a tweet Tuesday, according to WCAU-TV. “There has been a lot of licensing interest and all proceeds will be going to support Anthony Torres and his family.”
Bentivegna deleted his Twitter account following the overwhelming criticism he received for posting the videos.
Torres told WCAU he forgives Bentivegna, adding that he also hopes other passengers can forgive him for shaving on the train.
“I’m [going to] make sure it won’t happen again,” Torres said during a Facebook Live with the news stations. “I hope they forgive me. But that’s not the person I am.”
Anthony Torres, the man caught on video shaving on a New Jersey Transit train is talking to us right now. He has a message for those who shamed him on social media. Aaron Baskerville
Posted by NBC10 Philadelphia on Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Torres also shared one lesson he hopes others will take away from this incident:
“Try not to judge anybody because you really don’t know their life,” he said. “You don’t know how they’re living their life.”
Anthony Torres serves as a valuable example in our modern age of viral social media, where it’s all too easy to gain attention, likes and shares at the expense of others. Perhaps after hearing this man’s story, others will think a bit more deeply about what they share, knowing that the subjects of these posts are real human beings with families and unique pasts of their own.