Monday, December 17, 2007

this morning as I was getting off the subway

There was a press of people waiting in clump to ascend the stairs out of the station. Slightly ahead of me, two women in their mid- or late-twenties bumped elbows and turned to look at each other.

"Oh! It's you!" said the redhead. The two embraced. "How funny seeing you here! Usually it's only coming back."

"I'm running early this morning," said the brunette. She had a lovely accent--my guess is German.

"Oh really? What do you do again?" asked the redhead.

It became obvious to me at this point that these two, who had greeted each other so warmly, were subway friends. Their only overlap was on the beloved MTA, although (since they made a lunch date within earshot) it became obvious that they had managed to transcend the commuter divide.

This is especially inspiring to me because we have to realize that at one point these women, cold strangers, must have taken the initial leap and dared to talk to each other on the subway. Most of us are so afraid to take any of those chances (or two shy or untrusting to reciprocate). But we are a city of basically good, kind people. You never know that your best friend isn't sitting next to you. I like to think of those endless possibilities.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Have you seen Maira Kalman's new book, The Principles of Uncertainty? An illustrated set of musings - it is a picture book for adults.

Anyway, when she feels blue she takes a ride in the subway. The individuals she observes there gives her hope. Take a peek at the book. It is wonderful.

Katherine

Precie said...

I can at least attest to the friendliness of strangers in the city...even though they might not be native. My husband and I went to see Tom Stoppard's new "Rock N Roll" at the Bernard Jacobs Theater, and on two separate occasions, total strangers struck up pleasant conversations with us.

Charles Gramlich said...

A very nice post with a very good point to make. I have occassionly struck up conversations with folks on transit buses, usually if they were reading and I saw an opening. I can almost always talk to folks about books.

Vesper said...

A very nice scene. It's always heartwarming to see such examples of "well spent" trust in people...

Conduit said...

When I went to New York I had that hardened city dweller stereotype in my mind and it was constantly proven wrong, from the elderly gentleman on the subway who enquired about my Van Halen T-shirt to the guy who was asking for swipes at Penn station and seemed genuinely touched when I gave him my seven day Metro Card that still had a couple of days left (I didn't need it anymore as I was heading for my train to the airport).

My own preconceptions showed themselves at their worst when around midnight on the Friday night a woman ahead of me tripped and went ass-over-tincup at the 42nd street subway entrance. I stood back, not wishing to get involved, while about a half dozen NYers jumped to her aid, helping her up and making sure she was all right. So much for small town versus big city ways, eh? I mentally kicked myself in the arse for that.

Ello said...

I liked Conduit's post because it is a reminder that New Yorkers have a bad rep that is not always deserved. We do try to avoid eye contact on the street and we do tend to stay in our cocoon - but if you need help, we are there. Striking up conversations with a fellow New Yorker can be an illuminating experience. I never got to the point of becoming friends with another commuter, but I was definitely on smiling chatting basis with regular D train riders when I was a regular. Very nice post, Moon!

Sarah Hina said...

That's beautiful. Out of that crush of people, two people taking the time to listen. Thanks for sharing.

Church Lady said...

Last time I was on the metro (what we in the DC area call the subway), a woman was sticking her infant into the closing doors to trigger the sensor so the doors would open again. The baby's head didn't get squashed though.

Everyone picks their nose.

The metro musicians are awesome.

Nobody really stops you if you go around the handicap area without paying.

Newspapers are free (but covered in boogers)

Jaye Wells said...

How cool! Thanks for sharing this.

Wayne said...

Wow. Endless possibilities for that story. And yes, brave women.

Bernita said...

MoonDear, you have been awarded A Roar for Powerful Words.
Links and details on my blog.
There's a widgit.

jalexissmith said...

sounds like you should make it your goal to find a commuter friend!

i find it especially lovely that they found each other because I personally am not all that pleasant in the morning until after my first cup of coffee and that happens on the train usually.

writtenwyrdd said...

Opening ones eyes to others' humanity can be difficult on the subway. We are so used to shutting down, ignoring, etc. for safety. I mean, it's so bad I was once assaulted by a crazy guy on teh bus and no one did anything...on a packed bus.

Maria said...

I'm always unlucky. If I am on a plane, I always sit next to the woman who will not SHUT up about her grandchildren or the man who fancies himself to be Johnny Depp and tries to woo me by making stupid comments.

But, I met my bff when we were both volunteering at our children's school and she came boldly up to me and told me her name and asked for mine. Then we went on to visiting now and then. Now, we are soul sisters.

It happens.

Colleen_Katana said...

Yeah! Bangarang New Yorkers! Can I get a w00t w00t! (That was for you, Ello!)

I've actually met two guys I dated on the subway. I'm still friends with both. I was very nervous the first time, though, and I seriously think my father had a minor heart attack when I told him I was going on a date with a man I had met on the train.

Lisa said...

I've been sulking for a week and feeling nostalgic and a little sad that Christmas time is just an annoyance and people aren't nice to each other anymore -- and then I stopped here and this story put a real smile on my face. Thanks for that.

Space Alien said...

This post was very inspiring! Just today as I was waiting for the subway on the way home from work, and awkward 35-year old business man made a point to take off his ear phones and try to make conversation while I was listening to my iPod.
Moral of the story; NY is full of friendly strangers... though most are people you don't want to talk to.

ps, Un poco grammatical error. Do you see it?

Space Alien said...

pps, Ichi-ban no commento wa watashi ga imasen. Wink.
Woooah my nihongo has gotton muy mal! Hopefully you got the gist?

Just to let you know.