Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Memoirs from a New York City Subway 2

The plastic benches are surprisingly comfortable as my wife and I sit. They are colored in 70’s tones but there is a lot of chrome around and chrome, like blue jeans, never goes out of style. As we move along south, at least I hope its south, on Manhattan Island the subway fills with people heading to work. Soon the comfortable bench becomes crowded and people begin to stand in front of me. They hold the vertical chrome bars first but as more and more people crush into the car they begin to grasp the horizontal ones above my head and I have a great view of armpits in front of me. At every stop the deck is reshuffled as people move about to get out, get in, get a better grip or get an open seat.

Businessmen read papers folded strategically with one hand while holding on with the other. Young people with backpacks are wired into their iPods as they bob their heads to the bass drum even I can hear across the aisle. Moms with children pulled close to them like hens protecting them from the crush of people in the car. Women in short skirts and fashion purses check their makeup in small mirrors. Rough workers with Thermos lunch boxes and Yankee caps pulled down over their eyes sleep in corners. Magically they understand the garbled announcement of the upcoming station and the next one as my wife and I look at each other questioning what the announcement was. It sounded more like a bad fast-food drive through box. More likely the experienced “feel” when they are at their stop, there bodies know when to wake them or nudge them out of their iPod induced stupor and exit the train.

As I feel the car accelerate and decelerate with each passing station I watch the people. Not the individuals anymore, the PEOPLE as a whole. Everyone is in sync. The subway takes off and we all lean the same way in the crush of people. The subway stops and we all lean the opposite way together. We reshuffled the deck and all lean the same way as it takes off. I smile at the subway dance. All equal, all participate; all are a part of the dance. Businessmen lean with the construction workers, short skirted women lean with moms and their children, and we tourists join in the dance and lean and shuffle with all of them.

I smile as I watch the subway dance until I am nudged by my wife that we are at our stop. From outside I watch the reshuffle and the lean as the train takes off again. A little sadness creeps in as I miss my fellow dancers. We are not so different after all, we people. My fellowship moves on without me as my wife and I move through the hall and into the real, sunlit world again.

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